Calling All Freshers – have you had your meningitis vaccine?

16th September 2020

Heading off to university this autumn? Even if freshers’ week isn’t shaping up quite the way you’d hoped, getting a meningitis vaccine is as important as ever.

Being a student puts you at a higher risk of getting meningitis, which can cause long-term disabilities or even be deadly. The MenACWY vaccination is free to everyone under 25, so don’t hesitate – get yourself a jab as soon as possible.

If you’re concerned about getting an NHS appointment before you head off to university, call us on 01202 761150 and we’ll get you sorted.

Getting the MenACWY vaccine is the best way to protect yourself against meningitis. But don’t just stop there. Read on to make sure you’re clued up on what the disease is and what symptoms to look out for.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is a disease caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Bacterial meningitis is rarer but more dangerous than the viral version. As it’s bacterial meningitis that the MenACWY vaccination covers, that’s the one we’ll focus on here.

Meningococcal bacteria can lead to meningococcal disease in the form of meningitis or septicaemia (blood poisoning). The bacteria is usually transferred from the nose and throat of people who are not showing symptoms. Meningococcal disease can trigger sepsis, which can be fatal, and cause disabilities including amputation, blindness, deafness and brain damage.

With such severe consequences, it’s crucial that you’re familiar with the symptoms of meningococcal disease. These include:

  • High temperature of 38C or above
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Muscle pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Drowsiness
  • Blotchy skin
  • Difficulty looking at bright lights
  • Bruise-like rashes that don’t fade under pressure

We know, it’s a long list. Because so many of these resemble the flu or even a hangover – yes, freshers, we’re looking at you – it’s not always easy to spot the symptoms of meningococcal disease. Particularly at the moment, you might even think you’d contracted coronavirus.

But if you, or someone you know, develops these symptoms, seek medical help immediately. The sooner you spot it, the better your chances of a full recovery.

How does the MenACWY vaccine work?

Although the MenACWY vaccination hugely reduces your risk of meningococcal disease, it is still possible to get it. So before we get into the nitty gritty of how the vaccine works, make sure you’ve read the section above, which covers those all-important symptoms.

Meningococcal disease is caused by 13 different meningococcal bacteria. In the UK, meningitis is most commonly caused by MenB, MenC, MenW or MenY.

The MenACWY vaccination protects against four strains of bacteria. Yep, you guessed it – MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY.

You might notice that MenB is missing from this list. Don’t worry – that’s because you receive the MenB vaccine as a baby, which is when you’re most at risk.

The MenACWY jab contains the sugar coating found on the surface of these four bacteria. It works by tricking the immune system into developing antibodies to fight against meningococcal disease without ever giving it to you.

Once you’ve had your MenACWY vaccine, you might notice some mild side effects including a small itchy lump where you were injected, a high temperature, a headache, nausea and tiredness. These symptoms should last no longer than 24 hours, so if you’re worried, get back in touch with your doctor.

Do I need the MenACWY vaccine?

Young people, and particularly university and college students, are the group most likely to carry and spread meningococcal bacteria. That means if you’re under 25, you’re eligible for a free vaccination.

The MenACWY jab is offered to teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15 at school, so there’s a good chance you’ve already ticked the box. But with over a million eligible young people who have missed out, it’s crucial that you check and get the vaccination if you haven’t already. Note that even if you’ve had the MenC vaccine as a baby, you still need the MenACWY one.

How do I get my MenACWY vaccine?

Even if you’re not planning to mix with huge quantities of people at uni this year, it’s still important to protect yourself against this extremely harmful disease. Ideally, you should get your vaccination two weeks before you head off to university.

If you’re struggling to get an NHS appointment in time, get in touch. We’ll take care of it so that you can get on with enjoying student life.