Men ACWY Vaccine – Reminder for Teenagers and ‘Fresher’ Students

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Teenagers and “fresher” students going to university for the first time are advised to have a vaccination to prevent meningitis and septicaemia, which can be deadly.

More information can be found at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/men-acwy-vaccine.aspx#what

What is the Men ACWY vaccine?

The Men ACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia): A, C, W and Y.

The Men ACWY vaccine is called Nimenrix.

Read the patient information leaflet for Nimenrix (PDF, 385kb).

At what age should teenagers and young people have the vaccine?

The Men ACWY vaccination is being offered to teenagers and also to first-time college and university students who haven’t already had the vaccination.

Schoolchildren

Children aged 13 to 14 (school year 9) are being offered the Men ACWY vaccine in school as part of the routine adolescent schools programme, alongside the 3-in-1 teenage booster, and as a direct replacement for the Men C vaccination.

Older teenagers

The Men ACWY vaccine provides important protection, and all teenagers born between September 1 1998 and August 31 1999 are advised to arrange vaccination now with their GP.

In addition, anyone born on or after September 1 1996 who missed their routine school vaccination in school years 9 and 10 or the catch-up Men ACWY vaccination can get the vaccine from their GP up to their 25th birthday.

University students

Students going to university or college for the first time, including overseas and mature students, who have not yet had the Men ACWY vaccine remain eligible up to their 25th birthday.

They should contact their GP to have the Men ACWY vaccine before starting university or college. If that’s not possible, they should have it as soon as they can after they arrive.

Why teenagers and students should have the Men ACWY vaccination

Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning (septicaemia) caused by a highly virulent strain of Men W bacteria have been rising since 2009.

Older teenagers and new university students are at higher risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.

Anyone who is eligible for the Men ACWY vaccine should have it, even if they’ve previously had the Men C vaccine.

The Men ACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing illness caused by the four meningococcal strains, including the highly virulent Men W strain.

The dangers of Men W disease

Cases of meningitis and septicaemia due to Men W have been increasing in England, from 22 cases in 2009/10 to 210 in 2015/16.

The increase is almost entirely due to the aggressive Men W strain. Although this is rare, it can spread rapidly and cause serious illness in otherwise-healthy children and adults.

With early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, most people with meningococcal disease make a full recovery. But one in three teenagers with Men W have died as a result of the disease.

Those who recover can be left with serious long-term health problems, such as amputation, deafness, blindness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

Men W infections are more likely to be fatal than the more common Men B strain.

The Men ACWY vaccine has previously been recommended only for people at increased risk of meningococcal disease, including people with no spleen or a spleen that doesn’t work properly; for Hajj pilgrims; and for travellers to countries with high rates of meningococcal disease, including parts of Africa and Latin America.

Read more about Men ACWY as a travel vaccine.