The former Health Minister of Saudi Arabia, Dr Hussain Al Gezairy, has announced that in accordance with the decision of the Saudi government, all Hajj pilgrims leaving from Pakistan to perform Hajj will receive two drops of the oral polio vaccine upon arrival in Saudi Arabia starting from Wednesday (today).
While speaking to The Express Tribune, Dr Gezairy said that a few years ago, pilgrims travelling from Nigeria caused an outbreak of the polio virus in Makkah which resulted in four Saudi Arabian children becoming infected during the Hajj season.
“We want to ensure that Saudi children remain protected against the crippling polio virus,” said Gezairy.
He once again appealed to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to support the polio vaccination drive and lift the ban on polio.
“As thousands of Pakistani brothers and sisters embark on the holy journey to perform Hajj, I once again appeal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Nazir and Mangal Bagh to lift the ban on polio immunisation and save the future generations of the country and the Muslim world,” he urged.
Dr Gezairy, who is currently working as an adviser to the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for polio eradication, is in Pakistan on a three day visit which ends today (Wednesday).
Gezairy conveyed his best wishes to the pilgrims of the first Hajj flights leaving from Peshawar and Islamabad on Wednesday, and added that special polio teams have been posted at all entry points in the country to ensure that all pilgrims arriving from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria are vaccinated against the polio virus.
“All the 832 hajj pilgrims arriving in the Holy Land on Wednesday from Peshawar and Islamabad will receive polio drops at Jeddah International Airport,” he said.
Approximately 95,000 pilgrims in total will be vaccinated against polio upon their arrival in Jeddah through 204 Hajj flights, and four flights will land in Madinah, according to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The pre-Hajj operation 2012 will conclude on 20th October 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2012.