By Arab News
By Mohammed Rasooldeen
More than 1 million polio vaccines were given to Haj pilgrims from endemic countries, Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah announced here yesterday.
Al-Rabeeah was chairing the seventh meeting of the Haj Health Committee at his ministry headquarters yesterday. Chairmen of all related sub-committees were present to exchange notes about the progress of the health plan for the current Haj season.
The minister said that polio vaccines were given to pilgrims who arrived at the Haj terminal from countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and Nigeria. He added that pilgrims who from the African belt were also given polio doses as a preventive treatment. The doses were given to both male and female pilgrims.
Prior to the Haj season, the Saudi missions abroad requested pilgrims to produce quarantine certificate to issue Haj visas. They were certified against yellow fever, meningitis, polio and influenza depending on the countries of origin.
Most pilgrims from the African and South American continents were advised to take vaccination against yellow fever, which is endemic to those countries.
Vaccination against meningitis was made compulsory on all pilgrims since it can be spread due to congestion of people, coughing and saliva from infected people.
The minister said the ministry formed several teams to look after the health interests of the pilgrims.
“One of such teams is the group of officials, who are giving polio doses at the airport,” the minister said. He noted the ministry is fully equipped with medics, paramedics supported with necessary facilities to face any eventualities.
Al-Rabeeah said there are no serious health problems among the pilgrims.
“We are monitoring the pilgrims at all sea, land and air entry points to check pilgrims carrying infection into the Kingdom,” he noted, adding that maximum precautionary measures are being taken to check new developments in the spread of infection.
In case of emergency, the ministry of health has set up airstrips for air ambulances in Arafat to ferry emergency patients with the help of the Red Crescent.
The helipads are fully operational and the ministry will be using it for the first time this year, Al-Rabeeah said.
He said that last year the ministry carried out some experimental operations.
He added there are 25 hospitals with a capacity of 5,200 beds. They include seven in Makkah, nine in Madinah,four in Minah,four in Arafat, the new Arafat Sharq Hospital and the King Abdullah Medical City.
Besides these hospitals, he said there are 141 medical clinics in the holy sites,which include 43 in Makkah, 80 in pArafat, Minah and Muzdalifah, 12 in Madinah and 17 emergency clinics at the Jamaarat area.
“We have also kept a stock of 16,000 units of blood to treat patients who come to these facilties,” he said.
The minister also stressed the importance of unifying the efforts of all health sectors participating in this year’s Haj season to provide integrated health care services to the guests of Allah.
“According to the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, we are dedicated to provide the best of services to the guests of Allah,” he said
The committee also coordinates with other ministries that are connected with the maintenance and operation of Haj activities in the holy areas. Al-Rabeeah said that the functions of the Haj committees are interlinked through a electronic network to ensure integrated health care services.
“The sick should be transported to the nearest Haj facility without loss of time, ” Al-Rabeeah said.
He also said that the ministry should make use of the ambulances that are available at all strategic points within the holy cities. He indicated the casualties among pilgrims would include victims of accidents, food poisoning and fatigue due to congestion.