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Around 1 in 8 new students unprotected against meningitis

Approximately 13% of new students missed their free MenACWY vaccine in school and remain unprotected against 4 deadly types of meningitis, the UK Health Security Agency has said

The NHS MenACWY immunisation programme for schools is offered to all pupils in year 9 and 10. UKHSA vaccine coverage data shows around 1 in 8 new students going to college and university this year remain unprotected against these 4 strains of meningococcal bacteria, each of which can cause long term disability, serious health complications and can be life threatening.

The latest 2021 to 2022 MenACWY coverage data shows the vaccination rate has fallen to 79.6%, which means that the figure will rise to around 1 in 5 pupils being unprotected when they start college or university in a few years’ time if they don’t catch up with their vaccinations.

‘Every year we see new and returning students get seriously ill, with some tragically dying, from what are preventable diseases. With large numbers of students coming together from around the country and overseas for the first time, and closely mixing, infection can spread easily,’ said Dr Shamez Ladhani, Consultant Epidemiologist at UKHSA.

‘Ensuring you are protected against these deadly bugs is vital. If you’ve missed out on your meningitis (MenACWY), HPV or MMR jabs then contacting your GP for the vaccine should be top of your list of urgent things to do before starting college or university.’

All first-year students starting college or university this September and returning students who are not up to date with all their childhood and adolescent vaccines are at increased risk of serious diseases such as meningitis, septicaemia and measles as they mix with large numbers of other students from around the country and overseas.

‘Meningitis can kill healthy people within hours and in the early stages is difficult to distinguish from a bad hangover or more common milder illnesses. By taking up the free MenACWY vaccine, students are not only protecting themselves but also protecting others by stopping the bacteria from being passed on,’ said Claire Wright, Head of Insights and Policy at Meningitis Research Foundation.

‘For young people who have already been vaccinated it remains important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of meningitis because the free vaccine does not protect against MenB, which is the most common cause of life-threatening meningitis amongst this age group.’