KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 17 — Pneumococcal vaccination will help prevent pneumonia infections(9) that can disrupt a productive Hajj or Umrah pilgrimage, said a local travel agents’ association.
The Malaysian Bumiputera Association of Tour and Travel Agents (BUMITRA) said that mass gatherings or a highly dense population during these pilgrimages to Mecca are among the factors for increased risk of infection, especially respiratory infections(1), including pneumococcal pneumonia.
“Pneumonia is a challenging issue where there are chances for Hajj and umrah pilgrims to be admitted into hospitals in Saudi Arabia if they contract the bacteria,”(17) BUMITRA president Harun Ahmmu told CodeBlue.
“If they contract the bacteria, sometimes they can possess respiratory infection symptoms and be admitted to hospitals”.(19)
According to a 2018 review of 61 papers on respiratory infections among Hajj pilgrims, the prevalence of pneumonia in hospitalised Hajj pilgrims ranged from 0.2 per cent to 54.8 per cent.(2)
A technical report, which was released by the National Institute of Health under Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) in February 2021, stated that the rise of pneumococcal pneumonia cases among Malaysian Hajj pilgrims have increased the government’s financial burden.(12)
“Pneumococcal vaccine is essential because it will not only help the pilgrims to spend their travel period peacefully, but will also stop them from spreading the bacteria once they are back to Malaysia,” said Harun.(3)
“Vaccination for Hajj and Umrah pilgrims can be classified into two categories: the mandatory vaccines and recommended vaccines. Pneumococcal vaccine is one of the recommended vaccines.”(4,5,14)
BUMITRA vice president (Hajj and Umrah bureau) Shamsulnidza Mudari laid his emphasis on the emotional well-being of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia, stating that a new environment, crowded place, the weather, food patterns can sometimes cause stress.(6)
“Hajj and umrah pilgrims can feel anxious and stressed because it takes time to adapt to the spiritual journey in a foreign land,”(6) Shamsulnidza told CodeBlue.
“So imagine how they might feel if they contract a disease like pneumonia there?”
Shamsulnidza also mentioned that crowded situations like the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage can be a platform for quick spread of respiratory infections(1,11) like pneumococcal pneumonia, especially among elderly or immunocompromised people.
“Respiratory disease can spread by just sneezing or coughing.(10)
“Vulnerable people, especially the elderly pilgrims can contract the bacteria easily. They should always protect themselves from contracting any bacteria in congested areas particularly when they perform their spiritual journey.”
He pointed out the high tendency of elderly pilgrims having comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes, or hypertension, which make them highly vulnerable to contracting pneumococcal pneumonia.(15)
According to the Wakaf, Zakat and Hajj Department (Jawhar), Malaysian Hajj and Umrah pilgrims need to obtain a certified physical health certificate from MOH before being allowed to perform Hajj.(7)
“Every pilgrim should get a health certificate and comply with the latest health updates announced by the government of Saudi Arabia to perform the pilgrimage,”(8) Jawhar director-general Selamat Paigo told CodeBlue.
Selamat mentioned that the health of Hajj and Umrah pilgrims is very important and has always been a priority for the government. Thus, he said MOH encourages pneumococcal vaccination for pilgrims to prevent serious illness caused by pneumonia.(16)
“Taking the recommended vaccines including pneumococcal vaccine is effective in preventing critical respiratory illness like pneumococcal pneumonia.”(9)
The article is brought to you by Pfizer Malaysia. The contents represent the opinions and experience of respective individuals and do not necessarily represent the views or recommendation of Pfizer.
- Prevention of pneumococcal infections during mass gathering. doi: 10.1080/21645515.2015.1058456
- Clinical respiratory infections and pneumonia during the Hajj pilgrimage: A systematic review. doi: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2018.12.002.
- Hajj vaccinations—facts, challenges, and hope. doi: 10.1016/j.ijid.2016.05.024
- Hajj and Umrah Health Requirements. The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington DC. Last accessed on, 28 August 2021
- The Hajj 2019 Vaccine Requirements and Possible New Challenges. doi: 10.2991/jegh.k.190705.001
- Hajj and the Mental Health of Muslim Pilgrims: A review.
- Hajj FAQ under Tabung Haji. Last accessed on 30 August 2021.
- Travel Health Pro Hajj and Umrah Factsheet. Last accessed on 30 August 2021.
- Respiratory tract infections during the annual Hajj. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32835f1ae8
- Hajj and Umrah Mass Gatherings and Covid-19 Infection, Van-Thuan et al, MASSIVE GATHERING EVENTS AND Covid-19 (M ALMUTAIRI, SECTION EDITOR), 3 Nov 2020.
- Prevention of Pneumococcal Disease: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Last accessed on 28 August 2021.
- Technical report: Cost-effectiveness Analysis of Pneumococcal Vaccine for Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims, published by the National Institute of Health in February 2021.
- Assessment of Knowledge, Attitude and Practice towards Prevention of Respiratory Tract Infections among Hajj and Umrah Pilgrims from Malaysia in 2018. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00268
- The Hajj 2019 Vaccine Requirements and Possible New Challenge. Journal of Epidemiology and Global Health, Volume 9, Issue 3, September 2019. doi: 10.2991/jegh.k.190705.001.
- Which individuals are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease and why? Impact of COPD, asthma, smoking, diabetes, and/or chronic heart disease on community-acquired pneumonia and invasive pneumococcal disease. doi: 10.1136/thoraxjnl-2015-206780
- Haj and umrah pilgrims encouraged to take pneumococcal and flu shots. New Straits Time. Published on November 7, 2018.
- The Characteristics of Hospitalized Pneumonia Patients among Malaysian Hajj Pilgrims. Journal of Young Pharmacists 8(3):284-290. doi:10.5530/jyp.2016.3.20
- The full benefits of adult pneumococcal vaccination: A systematic review doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186903
- Respiratory tract infection during Hajj. National Centre Biotechnology Information. doi: 10.4103/1817-1737.49412