Report: Anti-vaxxers forging jab forms for haj, umrah

File picture shows Muslim pilgrims arriving at Jeddah airport on August 26, 2017, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. — AFP pic
File picture shows Muslim pilgrims arriving at Jeddah airport on August 26, 2017, prior to the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the holy city of Mecca. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 3 — A number of Malaysians refusing immunisation injections are exposing themselves and others globally to infectious diseases by faking the vaccinations forms required to go on pilgrimages to Islam’s holiest cities Mecca and Medina, according to a Singapore paper.

The Sunday Times cited several Malaysians admitting to falsifying health forms confirming their inoculation against infectious diseases like meningitis to gain entry into Saudi Arabia where vaccination is compulsory, by paying just RM500.

“My family and I performed our umrah two years ago without getting the meningococcal vaccine.

“The travel agency took care of it for us by getting a doctor to put his signature down in our health record book,” Muhammad Quddus from Petaling Jaya, was quoted saying.

The 43-year-old businessman said he was told the travel agency “caters” to haj pilgrims who did not want the immunisation jabs.

This trend does not appear to be new. Another Malaysian who had performed her pilgrimage two years ago, Maimunah Ishak, 45, told the weekend edition of The Straits Times that she had engaged a middle man to fake her inoculation form back then.

“The problem was getting someone 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 was quoted saying.

The move to falsify the documents, and mingling in a densely populated area leaves them exposed to contracting infections such as meningitis, or even spreading diseases of their own.

According to the news report, some 30,000 Malaysians travelled to Saudi Arabia annually for the haj and an additional 200,000 Malaysians carry out their umrah — a mini pilgrimage performed outside the haj season — yearly.

The paper cited an unnamed senior official saying the government is aware of Malaysians who were dodging the compulsory vaccination for pilgrimages.

“We are aware that such arrangements involving willing medical practitioners exist, but how it’s really done, we don’t know,” the officer told the Singapore paper on condition of anonymity.

The anti-vaccination movement in Malaysia has been growing in recent years, with Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye saying last week that the inoculation rate for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) has dropped to 89 per cent from 95 per cent required for mass  protection.

Among the arguments forwarded by the anti-vaxxer group are the questionable halal status of the vaccines, which some insisting they contain porcine DNA despite assurances from the National Fatwa Council.

The Health Ministry is currently looking into making vaccination compulsory for all Malaysians.

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