vaccine

Meningitis Vaccine (Men ACWY)

Does it affect me?

Viral meningitis and meningococcal disease (meningitis +/- septicaemia) can affect people of any age but are most common in babies and young children. Teenagers and young people are the second age group most frequently affected. Over 12% of all cases of meningococcal disease occur in the 14 – 24 year old age group and first year university students may be at particular risk.

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The five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that commonly cause disease are groups A, B, C, W and Y.

Meningococcal group W (Men W) has historically been rare in the UK but since 2009 year on year cases of Men W have increased and continue to do so. A particularly aggressive strain of Men W is causing disease in all age groups but there has been a significant increase in university students.

As the name suggests the Men ACWY vaccine offers protection against the four groups of meningococcal bacteria A, C, W and Y. The Men ACWY vaccine was introduced across the UK in August 2015.

Q. Who will get Men ACWY vaccine and when?
University students who were with a date of birth between 01/09/1990 and 31/08/1996 are eligible to get their vaccine free of charge from their GP. You will not automatically be invited – you will have to make an appointment yourself.

Q. Why are only teenagers being offered the Men ACWY vaccine
A. Although Men W cases have increased in all age groups, there has been a significant increase in university students. Teenagers and young people are more likely to carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats. By giving the vaccine to 14 – 18 year olds, and new university students, this will directly protect this age group and also reduce the chance of the meningococcal bacteria spreading to others.

Q. Is this a new vaccine?
A. The Men ACWY vaccines are called Nimenrix® and Menveo® (manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline). The vaccines have been used for many years across the world and have an excellent safety record. A single dose of either vaccine provides the same level of protection in adolescents and young people.

Q. What are the common side effects?
A. Vaccine recipients may get soreness, and some redness and swelling in their arm at the site of the injection. They may also get a headache, but these symptoms should resolve after one or two days.

Q. Can I ask for my baby/child to be vaccinated with the Men ACWY vaccine
A. The Men ACWY vaccine is only being offered to 13 – 18 year olds and new university students. However, the vaccine is also recommended for children and adults who are known to be at increased risk of meningococcal disease e.g. those who have no spleen or who have complement deficiency.

Q. How many doses are required?
A. One dose is required

Q. Why is there an increase in Men W cases?
A. It is not known why there has been a recent rise in Men W cases. Unlike the international Hajj associated Men W outbreak in 2000 – 2002, these recent cases have not been associated with travel or entry to the UK. Most of these recent cases have been caused by a single aggressive Men W strain and have affected all age groups.

Q. Why are students and young people particularly affected by this?
A. The recent increase in Men W cases has affected all ages, including infants, toddlers and adolescents. Teenagers are more likely to carry meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats. Giving a vaccine to 13 – 18 year olds and new university students will directly protect this age group and also reduce the chance of the bacteria spreading to others.
The vaccine is particularly important for those preparing to head off to university as they are at greatest risk of infection, this can be due to high carriage rates while in close contact in shared accommodation such as halls of residence.

Q. Is Men W life-threatening?
A. Like all meningococcal groups, Meningococcal group W disease is a serious and potentially life-threatening infection.

Q. What are the symptoms of Men W?
A. Like all meningococcal groups, Men W commonly causes septicaemia and meningitis. The disease develops rapidly and can be fatal within 24 hours.

Q. How important is it to seek medical attention quickly?
A. Early recognition and prompt treatment– especially antibiotics - for patients with meningococcal disease – can be life-saving. Trust your instincts, get medical help immediately.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of Meningitis and Septicaemia, please visit www.MeningitisNow.org