The Kingdom will not bar anyone considered a high risk for swine flu
from performing the Haj this year, said Minister of Health Abdullah
Al-Rabeeah said it
is the responsibility of individual countries to enforce
recommendations that children, the elderly and pregnant women forgo
this year’s pilgrimage.
“Saudi Arabia does
not ban anyone because the Haj is a religious event,” Al-Rabeeah
told reporters. “Saudi Arabia has put in place strong
recommendations that we hope individual countries will abide by.”
the comments at the launch of a national swine flu vaccine campaign
in which he rolled up his sleeve and took the first shot. He then
administered the vaccine to one of his twin daughters, Hana, 8. Her
sister Haifa did not get the vaccine because she contracted swine
Al-Rabeeah said a
million doses of the vaccine would cover the first stage of the
campaign. Pilgrims residing in Saudi Arabia, health workers and
other officials involved in the Haj, especially in the holy cities
of Makkah and Madinah, top the vaccination priority list. The
vaccination has been approved by the Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA),
the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the European
Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA).
that the Ministry of Health has tested the vaccination and that
people are only being vaccinated following the recommendations of
the SFDA and other recognized global organizations.
“People need not
have any qualms about the effects of the vaccination. It does not
have any serious side effects on adults and children,” he said,
adding that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah is keen
on providing the best health care to people in the Kingdom.
The first phase of
the campaign will cover local Haj pilgrims, members of the public
and private sectors who are working during the Haj in the two holy
cities of Makkah and Madinah, and other workers who are in contact
that only two cases of swine flu have been reported so far among the
half a million pilgrims who have already arrived in the Kingdom. He
added that there are no indications fewer people would be attending
this year’s Haj because of swine flu concerns.
According to the
Saudi Press Agency, local pilgrims have the option to be vaccinated.
It has also been reported that the governments of several countries
— including China and Egypt — are vaccinating their citizens who are
coming for Haj.
called on parents to cooperate with the Ministry of Health in
vaccinating their children in the Kingdom’s 30,000 schools. “I have
shown you a good example by vaccinating my own dear child. It is up
to you to follow suit,” he said, adding that schools would be
distributing consent forms.
told journalists that she was proud and happy to be the Kingdom’s
first child to be vaccinated and thanked King Abdullah and Crown
Prince Sultan for working hard to contain swine flu in the Kingdom.
officials to receive the vaccination during the launch included Dr.
Mansoor Al-Hawasi, deputy minister of health for executive affairs,
Dr. Yacoub Al-Mazrou, deputy minister for Preventive Medicine, Dr.
Khalid Al-Mirghalani, spokesman for the Ministry of Health, and Dr.
Mohamed bin Ahmad Al-Kanhal, executive president of the Saudi Food
and Drug Authority (SFDA).
launch, Dr. Al-Kanhal confirmed that the SFDA has approved the drug
and that the vaccine is being marketed in 17 European countries,
including Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and the
“In addition, all
studies and analysis confirmed that therapeutic benefits derived
from the vaccine outweigh the potential side effects that can be
caused by the vaccine, which do not differ in its entirety with the
effects of the seasonal influenza vaccine that has been used for
over 20 years,” he added.
So far, over 7,000
cases of swine flu have been reported in the Kingdom with 62 deaths
among them. According to the Ministry of Health, over 95 percent of
the flu victims have fully recovered.
The Kingdom has
made extensive preparations to contain swine flu during the Haj,
which begins toward the end of November.
include installing thermal-screening equipment at entry points to
detect passengers with fevers, rapid reporting of illnesses from a
network of hospitals and clinics back to emergency operations center
and special hospitals for quarantining those who catch the disease.