New campaign encourages freshers to get the Meningitis C vaccine booster

Young people from Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire, aged between 17 and 25 years and due to enter university for the first time this autumn, are being encouraged to get vaccinated against meningococcal C (MenC) infection.

In the UK, all children are offered the MenC vaccine to protect them against Meningococcal C infection but, as the protection offered by the vaccine decreases over time, a booster for teenagers has been introduced.

Young people are at a greater risk of catching meningitis just after starting university as they will be mixing closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria.

By having the Meningitis C booster, young people can protect themselves, their families and friends from this dangerous disease.

Dr Ardiana Gjini, Screening and Immunisation lead for NHS England (Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire) said: “Meningitis is a very serious illness caused by infection around the brain. Meningococcal C infection can lead to meningitis or septicaemia (blood poisoning). If not diagnosed and treated early, infection can lead to permanent disability or death.

“Young people may have had a Meningitis C vaccination as a child, but immunity to the disease wanes over time. The Meningococcal C bacteria circulates widely among young people, increasing the risk of the disease.

“Any ‘freshers’ aged between 17 and 25, should ask their GP for the vaccination, ideally, two weeks in advance of starting university.”

This will be the first year that young people under the age of 25 years and starting University for the first time university entrants under the age of 25 years are offered the Meningococcal C Conjugate vaccine. The programme aims to ensure all ‘freshers’ who have never received Men C vaccination or were previously last vaccinated at pre-school age receive the vaccine.

The Meningitis C vaccine programme has proved very effective in cutting down instances of the disease. There were 995 Meningitis C cases between 1998 and 1999, but when Meningitis C became part of the routine immunisations for babies in 1999 cases dramatically reduced year on year, due to a high uptake of the vaccine. Between 2011 and 2012 there were just 29 cases reported. Many of these were in adolescents.