Meningitis ACWY vaccination
Meningococcal disease is a rare but life-threatening disease caused by meningococcal bacteria which are divided into several groups The most common are A, B, C, W and Y. Infants, young children, teenagers and young adults have the highest risk of meningococcal disease.
In the UK over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of cases of meningococcal W (MenW) disease and there is no sign of the numbers declining. Older teenagers and young adults are more at risk of getting meningitis and septicaemia from MenW.
This is why it’s important that young people aged 14–18 (including those in school years 11–14) have MenACWY vaccination to protect against meningococcal disease.
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Both diseases are very serious and, especially if not diagnosed early, they can kill.
The early symptoms of meningococcal disease are similar to those of flu, so you need to be able to recognise the symptoms very quickly (even if you have been vaccinated, the vaccines offered through the routine immunisation programme do not protect against all forms of the disease).
A full description of the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be found at www.meningitis.org and www.meningitisnow.org or see page 6 and 7.
What causes meningococcal disease?
There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia – A, B, C, W and Y. The same bacteria that cause these serious diseases are also commonly carried in the back of the nose and throat, especially in young adults.
How common is it?
Meningococcal group C disease is now rare since MenC vaccination was introduced to the national immunisation programme in 1999. MenB is now the most common cause of meningococcal disease in children and young adults, while MenW and MenY used to mainly cause serious illness in older adults. Recently, however, there has been a large increase in MenW disease in the UK, resulting in several deaths among infants and teenagers.
Why do I need to get the vaccine?
As an older teenager, you are at higher risk of getting MenW meningococcal disease, so you need to get vaccinated to protect yourself.
Vaccination also reduces the risk of you carrying the bacteria and so protects other people around you. You may have had a MenC vaccination as a baby and again more recently but this will not protect you against other meningococcal groups. Even if you recently had the MenC vaccine, for example in school, you should still get the MenACWY vaccine when it is offered to you. The MenACWY vaccine will increase your protection against MenC and help to protect you against three other meningococcal groups (A, W and Y). It is still important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia because there are many other bacteria that can also cause these illnesses, including the group B strain, which is not covered by this vaccination.
Please click on the links below to either download the Men ACWY factsheet or to link to the NHS website
Men ACWY Factsheet
Men ACWY NHS website