Parents in Yorkshire and the Humber are being reminded this summer to encourage their 18-year-old children to get vaccinated against deadly meningitis and septicaemia. Those who are due to leave school this summer, or aged 17-18 and are not in school (born between 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999) are now eligible.
The MenACWY jab protects against four strains of meningococcal disease which causes meningitis and septicaemia, known as strains A, C, W and Y. MenW is one of the most aggressive and life threatening forms and meningococcal disease can be fatal. Many survivors are left with life changing disabilities, including brain damage and loss of limbs.
The MenACWY vaccine remains the best form of protection against the A, C, W, and Y strains with a 100% effectiveness rate in those that have been vaccinated so far.
Dr Mike Gent, Assistant Director, Health Protection of PHE Yorkshire and the Humber said: “The MenACWY vaccination programme will save lives and prevent lifelong and devastating disability.
“We have seen a rapid increase in Men W cases across England in recent years, including cases in Yorkshire and the Humber, and vaccination is the most effective way of protecting against infection.
“Young people are particularly at risk as they are carriers of the disease. Being in confined environments with close contact, such as university halls, hostels when travelling, or attending festivals, increase the chances of infection if unprotected.
“Get vaccinated as soon as possible, remain vigilant and seek urgent medical help if you have concerns for yourself or friends.
“New entrants to higher education (university freshers) are also eligible. Anyone who is eligible and has missed vaccination in previous years remains eligible up to their 25th birthday and is urged to have the MenACWY vaccine.
“While the vaccine also helps protect against Men A, C, W and Y, it does not cover all forms of meningococcal disease. It is therefore important for parents and young people to be vigilant in spotting early symptoms and to seek early medical assistance if they are concerned.
Fiona Jorden, Consultant in Public Health at NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber said: ““We’ve specifically seen an increase in Meningitis W cases in Yorkshire and Humber which can be fatal and can lead to long-term health problems. That’s why we want to encourage parents to ask any children they have aged 17 to 18 to have their vaccine and make sure that they stay safe.”
Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: “If you don’t know whether you are entitled to the free vaccine, our online eligibility checker will make it easy to find out. If everyone who is eligible gets it, this will not only protect them but will also help protect others by stopping the bacteria from spreading.”
Dr Tom Nutt, Chief Executive at the charity Meningitis Now, said: “Meningitis can be a devastating disease, killing one in ten and leaving a third of survivors with lifelong after-effects such as hearing loss, epilepsy, limb loss or learning difficulties.
“With teenagers being a high-risk group, we welcome this timely reminder for parents to ensure their loved ones take this easy step to help protect themselves.”
Not everyone will develop these symptoms and they can appear in any order but common symptoms may include
- Pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash• Irritability and/or confusion
- Severe headache, joint or muscle pains
- Dislike of bright lights
- Stiff neck
- Fever, cold hands and feet
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
- Drowsiness, difficult to wake up