School leavers encouraged to get meningitis vaccine

Date published: 30 May 2018

Anyone planning on going to university for the first time this autumn is encouraged to get the MenACWY vaccine. It can help protect against meningitis and septicaemia.

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Before starting university, anyone aged up to 25 years is recommend to arrange to get the vaccine from their GP.

If they don't get it before they start university, it's important to get it in the first week of term. 

The vaccine helps protect against meningococcal A, C, W and Y disease. 

New university students are at particularly high risk of getting meningitis or septicaemia in the first weeks of term, when they will come into contact with many new people of a similar age.

Older teenagers are at higher risk of getting MenW disease, so they need to get vaccinated to help protect themselves. It will also reduce the risk of them carrying the bacteria, therefore also helping to protect those around them.

Even if they have recently had the MenC vaccine, for example in school, they should still get the MenACWY vaccine. It will increase protection against MenC and help provide protection against the three other meningococcal groups.

They only need to have the MenACWY vaccine once. If they have already got the MenACWY vaccine in school or from their GP at the age of 14 years or over they do not need an additional dose of the vaccine.

You can find more information about it on the MenACWY vaccination programme for teenagers and students page.

Anyone whose date of birth is between 2 July 1996 and 1 July 2001 and hasn't yet received the vaccine, can still ask for it from their GP, even if they're not planning to go to university.

Symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia

It's important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and seek medical help immediately if you, or someone you know, experiences them.

Look out for any of these symptoms:

  • fever, cold hands and feet
  • vomiting and diarrhoea
  • drowsiness, difficult to wake up
  • irritability and/ or confusion
  • dislike of bright lights
  • severe headache or muscle pains
  • pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash
  • convulsions/ seizures
  • stiff neck

Both diseases are very serious and, especially if not diagnosed early, they can kill.

The early symptoms of meningococcal disease are similar to those of flu. You need to be able to recognise the symptoms very quickly, even if you have been vaccinated. The vaccines offered through the routine immunisation programme do not protect against all forms of the disease.

Students away from home are at risk. They are asked to keep an eye on friends and housemates. If they are unwell, keep checking on them - don’t just assume they will be ok.

You can find out more about meningitis at the link below:

Even if you are generally fit and healthy and think it is just a hangover or flu, check for the symptoms, don't just leave it, and tell someone if you feel unwell.

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