The sharp rise in a highly aggressive strain of meningococcal disease has led to a plea going out to all seventeen and eighteen years olds to visit their GP and have a simple vaccination that will protect them against meningitis.
Meningitis can be deadly and survivors are often left with severe disabilities as a result of this terrible disease.
The vaccine will protect against the MenW strain of meningitis, which has been increasing year on year, from 22 cases reported in 2009 to 117 cases in 2014, and is currently reported as being responsible for around a quarter of all laboratory-confirmed meningococcal cases in England.
The vaccine programme is available to all teenagers (born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 1997). It’s also important that anyone planning to go to university this year gets vaccinated, ideally before they leave home.
Earlier this year, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) reviewed the latest outbreak and warned that reported cases will continue to increase unless action is taken.
As well as MenW, the vaccination also protects against other forms of the disease – meningococcal disease types A, C and Y – which can also be fatal or cause long term complications for those affected.
Dawn Saunders, Consultant in Public Health, based in the Wessex office of NHS England (South) said: “We can’t stress enough just how important it is that all seventeen and eighteen year olds contact their GP practice and make an appointment to have the MenACWY vaccination. I’m appealing directly to those young people and their parents; don’t delay or put off having the vaccination. It’s a simple process that offers good protection against a very nasty disease.”