Public Health England (PHE) has issued advice to students, particularly to those coming to university for the first time. The advice is for all new university entrants up to the age of 25 to be vaccinated with the Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY) vaccine before the beginning of the new academic year. Students are advised to get vaccinated with Meningitis ACWY vaccine as soon as possible, if not already vaccinated. Even if you have already had the MenC vaccine, you should have the MenACWY vaccine.
Public Health England has the MenACWY vaccine freely available for teenagers 18-24, including international students, as they are most likely to carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats. Meningitis, particularly the highly virulent strain meningococcal W disease (Men W), poses a high risk for new students. This is due to the likelihood of coming into contact with a number of new people when first arriving at university, some of whom will unknowingly be carrying the bacteria, without any signs or symptoms, enabling it to spread. This risk has been increasing in recent years, which is why it is advised that you get the vaccination as soon as possible. This recent MenW strain has been particularly serious and can be difficult to diagnose because it has been associated with symptoms less frequently seen with meningococcal disease, such as severe diarrhoea and vomiting. Any student born after 1 September 1996 who missed the MenACWY vaccine can have the free vaccine before their 25th birthday. If you are 25 years and over and if you are still interested in having the ACWY meningitis vaccination you should speak with your GP who could best advise you about it. Some pharmacies also offer the ACWY meningitis vaccination as part of their travel vaccinations but you will need to pay for it.
You are advised to let someone know and seek medical advice if you are feeling unwell, and to keep an eye on friends who are ill. Seek medical advice immediately if you or someone has concerning symptoms, or their condition appears to be getting worse. Meningococcal disease can develop suddenly, usually as meningitis or septicaemia. Students should be aware of the symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia. Symptoms include severe diarrhoea and vomiting, headaches, a blotchy rash that doesn’t fade when a glass is rolled over it, muscles and joints pain, stiff neck, fever, and cold hands and feet. It can kill, or leave people with life-changing disabilities or health problems, like hearing loss, brain damage or the loss of a limb.
Please contact your local GP to get immunised against meningitis (Meningococcal ACWY) before the start of your studies at QMUL.
European students and international students:
We would advise you to get immunised before the start of your studies in your home country. Please ask your doctor/nurse for the MenACWY vaccine.
What happens if you’re not immunised before the start of the university?
Please make sure you register with the Student Health Service if you live on campus or within Tower Hamlets to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
If you don't live on campus or within Tower Hamlets, you will need to register with your local doctor to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Some of the local pharmacies would also be providing the Meningococcal ACWY for free. Please visit one of them to get immunised.
It would be useful if you could bring your vaccination records.
Why are we advising you to get immunised?
- You may have heard of MenC and MenB as causes of meningitis and septicaemia – now there is an increase in MenW infection as well.
- For more information, speak to your health centre nurse or doctor or visit www.nhs.uk/vaccinations, www.meningitis.org or www.meningitisnow.org
- Meningitis and septicaemia can kill very quickly.
- Cases caused by meningococcal W (MenW) bacteria are increasing in the UK.
- All age groups are being affected but teenagers and young adults have a higher risk or meningococcal disease.
- A vaccination programme is being introduced to provide added protection against MenW and to reduce the spread of the disease to others.
- The MenACWY vaccine that is used will protect against 4 meningococcal groups (A,C,W and Y) and started in school in September 2015.
- Even if you have already had the MenC vaccine you should have the MenACWY vaccine.
- If you are going to university, go to your GP to get the vaccination before you go but if you miss out register with a GP when at university and get the vaccination there.
- The vaccine, which also provides protection against the Men A, C and Y strains, not only protects you, but also helps control the spread of the disease in the wider community.