Students starting university for the first time in 2014 are recommended to have a booster injection of the Meningococcal group C (MenC) vaccine.
This is because new students, known as freshers, are more at risk of getting 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. The vaccine offers protection against MenC bacteria, which can cause meningitis, which is inflammation of the lining of the brain. The same group of bacteria can also cause blood poisoning (septicaemia). MenC disease is rare but can be life threatening and occurs mainly in young children and young adults.
It’s likely that students had a MenC vaccination as a young child, but immunity to the disease decreases over time, so this additional vaccine will protect them.
Dr Linda Diggle, head of healthcare programmes at Public Health said: “We know that students receiving their A-level results this week will have a lot to think about, and will be excited if they are going to university. But we’d encourage them to take a few minutes to go to their GP for this important booster vaccination. This recommendation has come from the UK Department of Health. They’re concerned that this year’s university entrants, who last had a MenC vaccine when they were pre-school age, are at risk due to the close contact students can have in halls of residence and particularly during Freshers’ Week.”
Students will get a reminder about the vaccine when they receive their A-level results as the UK Department of Health has teamed up with the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) – the body which assists students with their university applications – to ensure students are aware of the need to have the booster before arriving at university.
Dr Diggle added: “It’s important for students to get the booster injection at least two weeks before heading off to university, as it takes time for the vaccine to provide protection. We’ve ensured sufficient stocks are is available at GP practices and students won’t have to pay for the vaccine itself, although they may have to pay for the appointment at their GP surgery.”
Those planning to study at Highlands College do not need to have the booster injection because studies show they will not be exposed to the same level of risk as those entering university in the UK.
Students returning to university for their second or third year do not need to have the vaccine as they were slightly older when they received their first MenC vaccine in the year 2000 and aren’t at the same level of risk as those going to university for the first time.
Before the introduction of the MenC vaccine in 1999, infection with meningococcal group C bacteria resulted in hundreds of cases of meningitis and septicaemia each year, causing over 100 deaths. Since it was introduced, cases have become much rarer.
You can find out more about the signs and symptoms of meningitis at www.meningitisnow.org and www.meningitis.org