The protection offered by the infant meningococcal vaccine wanes so PHE recommends new students get a booster before they begin classes.
Public Health England (PHE) is urging new students (‘freshers’) to ensure they get vaccinated against meningococcal C (MenC) infection before beginning university in September.
In the UK, all children are offered MenC vaccine to protect them against MenC infection but, as the protection offered by the vaccine can wane, a booster for teenagers was added last year. For the next few years, university freshers will also be eligible for vaccination, until the teenagers who have had the booster reach university age.
Dr Shamez Ladhani, an expert on meningococcal disease for PHE, said:
Meningococcal C disease is a rare but life-threatening infection that occurs mainly in children and young adults. Students starting university and mixing with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria, are at risk of infection.
As the protection offered by the infant MenC vaccine wanes over time we are recommending university ‘freshers’ get a booster before they begin university, even if they received it as a young child. The addition of the ‘freshers’ MenC immunisation will contribute to the highly successful vaccination programme we have in the UK.
The MenC booster is available to any student entering university for the first time born after September 1995 and who received the MenC vaccine under the age of 10 years, or any student of any age entering or being at university who is unvaccinated against MenC disease. Anyone born before September 1995 and who received the MenC vaccination at secondary school won’t need another dose.
If you can’t remember, the best thing to do is to check with your doctor before you go off to university. Ideally, Freshers should have the MenC vaccination at least 2 weeks before they go away to study. However, anyone starting university without the booster should arrange to get it as soon as possible, via their university or college health centre or GP. If in doubt, there is no harm in having an extra dose.
The vaccine is also important for students coming to study from abroad who are unable to get the vaccine at home. Again, they should obtain it as soon as possible.
Notes to editors
- Read the student information leaflet on the MenC vaccine.
- More information about Men C vaccinations for students and a poster download is available from the Meningitis Research Foundation. Information is also available from the Meningitis Now website.
- An NHS leaflet about the MenC vaccine is also available.
- Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk
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