Travel Vaccines for Meningococcal Meningitis


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Meningococcal Meningitis is a major concern in Saudi Arabia and nearby regions of Africa. The infection is a particularly severe one which affects the nervous system, and it is highly recommended that you seek vaccination if you are travelling to an area where the transmission of this condition is a risk. Saudi Arabia requires proof of this vaccination before you are allowed entry into the country, particularly at certain times of the year.

Meningococcal Meningitis and the risks it poses

The infection is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitides, which is also referred to as meningococcus. The disease has a high fatality rate, which is why vaccinating against it if you are travelling to a high-risk area is so important. Even when not fatal, this infection can cause serious damage to the nervous system, resulting in lifelong disability.

The bacterium responsible attacks a protective lining lying between the skull and the brain called the meninges. The infection spreads into the spinal cord, and the result is a swelling of the meninges or brain which causes a number of serious neurological symptoms.

10% of patients infected with Meningococcal Meningitis will die, but complications affecting survivors include permanent brain damage.

Vaccinating against Meningococcal Meningitis

There are a number of different strains of the bacterium causing this type of meningitis, and a combined vaccine against the A, Y, W, and C strains is provided and, in some cases, necessary, for travel.

The vaccine itself should be administered about two weeks before travel. Adults only need a single vaccination, while children should have two doses administered after a one month interval, and the first dose should be provided at least 2 months as opposed to 2 weeks before travel.

Booster injections are sometimes necessary, but this depends on the specific vaccine with which you have been provided, as well as your travel plans and how often you might be exposed to the condition. The best course of action, particularly if you are travelling to a high risk area multiple times or for a prolonged visit, is to ask your doctor for advice on how to best organise any necessary booster shots.

Saudi Arabia requires evidence of vaccination against this type of meningitis at certain times of the year before granting entry into the country. This is primarily around the annual period of Muslim pilgrimage (the Hajj), but vaccination can also be required for entry if you intend on performing the pilgrimage at a different time of the year (the Umrah). This is because these events involve contact between millions of people, meaning that infection can potentially result in a widespread epidemic.

The certificate of vaccination required in this case must be issued over 10 days before arrival in the country, and is only valid for about 3 years, after which you will be required to arrange another vaccination and provide the necessary evidence.


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