Consensus recommendation for India and Bangladesh for the use of pneumococcal vaccine in mass gatherings with special reference to Hajj pilgrims
Respiratory tract infections are prevalent among Hajj pilgrims with pneumonia being a leading cause of hospitalization. Streptococcus pneumoniae is a common pathogen isolated from patients with pneumonia and respiratory tract infections during Hajj. There is a significant burden of pneumococcal disease in India, which can be prevented. Guidelines for preventive measures and adult immunization have been published in India, but the implementation of the guidelines is low. Data from Bangladesh are available about significant mortality due to respiratory infections; however, literature regarding guidelines for adult immunization is limited. There is a need for extensive awareness programs across India and Bangladesh. Hence, there was a general consensus about the necessity for a rapid and urgent implementation of measures to prevent respiratory infections in pilgrims traveling to Hajj. About ten countries have developed recommendations for pneumococcal vaccination in Hajj pilgrims: France, the USA, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE (Dubai Health Authority), Singapore, Malaysia, Egypt, and Indonesia. At any given point whether it is Hajj or Umrah, more than a million people are present in the holy places of Mecca and Madina. Therefore, the preventive measures taken for Hajj apply for Umrah as well. This document puts forward the consensus recommendations by a group of twenty doctors following a closed-door discussion based on the scientific evidence available for India and Bangladesh regarding the prevention of respiratory tract infections in Hajj pilgrims.