International charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) is warning students they must get a vital meningitis vaccine before they head off to university and ensure they know the signs and symptoms, as some kinds of meningitis can’t be prevented. Meningitis and septicaemia can kill in hours and leave many survivors with serious disability.
MRF is sending thousands of new posters entitled ‘Protect Yourself Against Meningitis’ to universities and colleges throughout the UK and has symptoms information available in print and online.
Currently all children in the UK are vaccinated against Meningococcal C (MenC) infection. Since the MenC vaccine was introduced in the UK in 1999, an estimated 150 lives have been saved each year and cases are now very rare. But we now know that protection offered by the vaccine does not last as long as expected, so the UK Government has launched a booster campaign for students entering university for the first time.
Christopher Head, Chief Executive of Meningitis Research Foundation said: “Vaccine research to ensure effective protection against this deadly disease has long been a top funding priority for MRF, and we welcome the Government’s new MenC booster campaign. New students are at increased risk of encountering the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease because they are often living in busy halls of residence and in close contact with other new students during fresher’s week.
The MenC booster is available to any student entering university who was born after September 1995 and has only received Men C vaccine under the age of ten years or any student of any age entering or being at university who is unvaccinated against Men C disease. Students should get immunised at least two weeks before they go away to study.
Those who start the term without the booster should arrange to get it as soon as possible either through their university or college health centre or with their new GP. The vaccine is also important for students coming to study from abroad who are unable to get the vaccine at home. Again they should obtain it as soon as possible.
MenB vaccine was recommended for infants in the UK in March 2014 but the timetable for implementation is yet to be confirmed . The vaccine is available privately but not everyone can afford it, and some other kinds of meningitis can’t be prevented. This is why MRF encourages everyone to learn the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and be prepared to act fast if they or their friends become ill.”
Dr. Shamez Ladhani, an expert on meningococcal disease for Public Health England said:
“The addition of the adolescent Men C immunisation programme will contribute to the highly successful vaccination programme we have in the UK. Although Men C disease is now rare, it can be life threatening. Because the protection offered by the infant Men C immunisation programme wanes over time, a booster is recommended for students before they begin university, even if they’ve had the Men C vaccine as a young child.”