Nonsensical, draconian laws of Saudi Arabia make news more often than not in world media. But what just occurred seems to be setting new records in ignorance. Each year millions of Muslims from all over the world visit the kingdom to perform pilgrim in Makkah, as part of their faith, for earning spiritual rewards. This time, the Saudi authorities decided to vaccinate pilgrims coming from certain countries where polio is still considered endemic. Pakistan was one of these countries.
As part of this grand plan, which was executed in collaboration with the religious ministry of Pakistan, over 17000 pilgrims were made to take vaccine regardless of their age of vaccination status, prior to departure for Saudi Arabia. This act of trying to please the United Nations by exhibiting participation in polio eradication campaign qualifies for a joke – a bad one, but still laughable. The polio eradication campaigns only administer oral polio vaccine (OPV) to children under age 5. Adults who grow up without being affected by polio literally have beaten it (the virus) and do not need vaccination. But this simple fact certainly sounds too difficult for the ability of Saudi authorities to comprehend. Hence the entertaining scene of putting polio drops inside the throats of grownup people of various ages at the Jeddah Haj Terminal.
“Regardless of vaccination status” meant that pilgrims from Pakistan and other countries, on whom the vaccine was imposed in the name of safety, were against given the drops in Saudi Arabia as well. After all who in the tame crowd could stand up and ask why potential carriers were being vaccinated with the vaccine instead of Saudi children? Since the vaccine, any vaccine at all, is meant to activate a healthy child’s immune system to cope with a possible viral attack, it is given to children (or people – for the Saudis) whom you want to protect from polio, not to grownup carriers of the polio infection. But religion works well in lulling sense and courage to prevent any kind of questioning in a critical, self-conscious (here, health-conscious) state of mind. For the pilgrims, it was probably just part of their aspired union with the divine.
Since this oral polio vaccine remains banned in US and several other developed countries, concerns have already been raised against its use in the third world due to reports of children getting paralyzed or falling dead. Dr. Rebecca Carley, who teaches treating vaccine-induced diseases, recently called polio vaccine a biological weapon. We shouldn’t expect the Saudi authorities to be able to understand what that means; but since they can at least try copying things from others, they may do a favor to the pilgrims by vaccinating their own people with the money they get from the UN next time – if they could still remember.