Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad at the launch of the haj and umrah immunisation campaign held at Putrajaya today. Pix by Ahmad Irham Mohd Noor

PUTRAJAYA: The Health Ministry wants haj and umrah pilgrims to consider taking the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines before leaving for the holy land.

Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said currently, it was compulsory for pilgrims to take the meningococcal vaccine, but they should also get the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines as well due to the impact of the illnesses on one’s health.

He added that the said vaccines were not given free by the Health Ministry, but they could get them from private clinics and hospitals as protection against the diseases which could cause death.

Dr Dzulkefly said influenza could cause death or serious complications including sinus and ear infection; lung, heart, brain and muscle inflammation as well as multiple organ failure.

“For pneumococcal, death can occur due to inflammation to the brain and spinal cord, pneumonia and blood infection.

“When taking the vaccines, it will not only protect one’s health, but can prevent from loss in productivity and reduce government expenditure for health treatment which can be quite costly,” he said after the launch of the haj and umrah Immunisation campaign here today.

He added that by taking care of one’s health, it would make it easy for them to perform their haj and umrah.

Dr Dzulkefly also said when one was infected by meningococcal, pneumococcal and influenza at the Holy Land, the person was at risk of spreading the diseases to their own family members who have weak immune systems such as babies and children.

Since 2002, he said the government had approved allocation for the Health Ministry to purchase meningococcal vaccine for Malaysian pilgrims who would perform their haj as it had been made compulsory.

Asked if the government would consider making it compulsory for Malaysian pilgrims to take the pneumococcal and influenza vaccines, Dr Dzulkefly said it would involve cost.

“This is related to opportunity cost, We have to look at the allocation we have at the moment. if we are (financially) able of course we want to enforce it (making it compulsory). We need to have enough allocation,” he said.

Health deputy director-general Datuk Dr Chong Chee Keong later said the ministry was working with the National Disaster Management Agency to prepare for the monsoon season to ensure there would be no healthcare service disruption at inundated areas.

“Aside from providing medical treatment, we must make preparations at flood relief centres too including providing enough medicine and vaccines,” he said, adding that those who needed to take their medication on a daily basis should get a one or two-month supply in advance.