This story was published 5 August 2019

The summer holiday is a good time for teenagers – including students going to university for the first time – to take the opportunity to have a simple free vaccination to guard against meningitis.

Meningitis vaccination

The free vaccine is called MenACWY and it protects against four different strains (A, C, W and Y) of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and/or blood poisoning.

County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, North Yorkshire’s Executive member for public health and prevention, said: “We strongly encourage young people in North Yorkshire to take up this free vaccination offer, to keep themselves safe when they go to university.

“Cases of meningitis and blood poisoning have been rising over the past nine years and older teenagers and new university students are at higher risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their noses and throats.”

Kathryn Ingold, consultant in Public Health for North Yorkshire, added: “Meningitis can be deadly, so anyone who is eligible for the MenACWY vaccine should have it, even if they've previously had the earlier MenC vaccine. The MenACWY vaccine is highly effective in preventing illness caused by the four meningococcal strains, including the virulent MenW strain.

“Students going to university for the first time, including overseas and mature students, who have not yet had the MenACWY vaccine, remain eligible up to their 25th birthday, even if they have previously had the MenC vaccine.

“They should contact their GP to have the MenACWY vaccination as soon as possible before starting their course. If they can’t do that, they should arrange to have this done as soon as they can after they start.”

Schoolchildren aged 13 to 14 (school year nine) are being offered the MenACWY vaccine as part of the routine adolescent schools programme, alongside the three-in-one teenage booster, and as a direct replacement for the MenC vaccination.  All teenagers and young people who were 14 years of age on or after 1 April 2012 and who missed this or other meningitis vaccinations at school are advised to arrange vaccination now with their GP. Individuals can get the vaccine from their GP up to their 25th birthday.