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M'sians bypassing Saudi vaccination rule to perform Hajj, umrah

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Some Malaysians en route to Mecca to perform the Hajj or umrah are falsifying their medical records to bypass Saudi Arabia's mandatory vaccination requirement.

According to Singapore's Sunday Times, these individuals, who are said to collude with doctors and travel agents, are part of the growing anti-vaccination movement here and abroad.

"My family and I performed our umrah two years ago without getting the meningococcal vaccine," Muhammad Quddus, a 43-year-old businessperson, was quoted as saying.

"The travel agency took care of it for us by getting a doctor to put his signature down in our health record book.

"I was told they (the company) also 'cater' to Hajj pilgrims who do not want to be vaccinated."

Law firm executive Maimunah Ishak, 45, claimed she used the service of a third party for her family about two years ago.

"The problem was getting someone (a doctor) to sign our vaccination booklet. 

"After months of looking around, we finally found an ustaz, who runs a travel agency, who was willing to do it for us, but we had to pay RM500 each," she said.

Saudi Arabia makes it compulsory for pilgrims to be vaccinated against meningitis before their visas can be approved.

All Malaysian pilgrims are required to go through Tabung Haji to perform the Hajj, with Riyadh setting a quota of about 30,000 pilgrims from here annually.

According to the Straits Times, more than 200,000 Malaysians visit Mecca to peform the umrah.

The report also quoted Tabung Haji department senior general manager Syed Saleh Syed Abdul Rahman, who confirmed that all pilgrims must pass the medical examination and undergo mandatory vaccination.

"This record book is systematically verified by the Health Ministry and checked by Tabung Haji. There are no exceptions," he stressed.

The recent rise of infectious diseases such as measles and diphtheria has triggered renewed concerns over the impact of the growing anti-vaccination movement.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad recently announced that the government is looking to make immunisation mandatory for all children.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa, meanwhile, urged all parties to stop debating the halal status of vaccines used in the country.

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