School leavers call to get meningitis vaccine

A new vaccine which helps protect against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia was made available yesterday.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging school leavers and first-time university students to get the new meningococcal vaccine.

Everyone born between 2 July 1996 and 1 July 1997, and first time university students up to the age of 25, will be offered the Men ACWY vaccine.

GP practices will be inviting people born between 2 July 1996 and 1 July 1997 to have the Men ACWY vaccine. The PHA is also encouraging everyone starting university for the first time, up to the age of 25, to get the vaccine.

However you must arrange this yourself and under 25s are being advised to have it before they start university, if possible, and if not, to have it in the first week of term.

Welcoming the roll-out of the vaccine, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “This vaccination helps protect against four different causes of meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal A, C, W and Y diseases. We are ensuring it is made available in Northern Ireland now, despite the extremely challenging financial position.

“Even if you have recently had the MenC vaccine, for example in school, you should still get the Men ACWY vaccine. It will increase your protection against Men C and provide protection against the three other meningococcal groups.”

Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, explained: “Older teenagers are at higher risk of getting MenW disease, so you need to get vaccinated to help protect yourself.

“It will also reduce the risk of you carrying the bacteria, therefore also protecting those around you.

“Older teenagers and those starting university for the first time usually mix with larger groups of people, making them more exposed to various infections or diseases. The best way to protect against meningococcal A, C, W, or Y disease is to get the vaccine before starting university.”

From January 2016, the vaccination will also start to be rolled out to all 14-18-year-olds through the schools immunisation programme. It is still important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia.”