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Saudi Arabia: Pilgrims Who Travel to Mecca This Fall Will Get an Oral Polio Vaccine on Arrival

Saudi Arabia has announced that everyone arriving for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in November will have to swallow a dose of oral polio vaccine under the eyes of health officials.

The kingdom has become more and more aggressive in its fight against polio, which has hovered on the brink of eradication for years. Until recently, the Saudi authorities asked for proof of vaccination when pilgrims applied for visas and forcibly vaccinated only those arriving from countries where polio was endemic.

In New York last week, the country’s foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Ted Turner, the cable television billionaire and chairman of the United Nations Foundation, announced that Saudi Arabia would donate $30 million toward global polio eradication. While that is only a small contribution to the $6.1 billion spent over the last 20 years, it is symbolically important.

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