News

Nurses warn that students have two weeks to get meningitis vaccine

Young people who find out they have a place at university this week have just two weeks to get vaccinated in order to be immune from meningitis in time for the start of term, the RCN has urged.

Young people who find out they have a university place this week have only two weeks to get vaccinated in order to be immune from meningitis in time for the start of term, the RCN has urged.

Public health experts at the RCN are calling on the government and NHS to launch an urgent targeted social media campaign to reach school leavers.

It is urging new students to make an appointment for the nurse-administered vaccine this month to give time for immunity to build before freshers week, traditionally held in mid-September.

New risks

The college is reminding young people that they can get the vaccine at GP surgeries, often in a dedicated vaccination clinic with a shorter waiting list. It is available at

Young people who find out they have a university place this week have only two weeks to get vaccinated in order to be immune from meningitis in time for the start of term, the RCN has urged.


The RCN urges young people to think ahead of freshers' week to get the meningitis vaccination.
Picture: Alamy 

Public health experts at the RCN are calling on the government and NHS to launch an urgent targeted social media campaign to reach school leavers.

It is urging new students to make an appointment for the nurse-administered vaccine this month to give time for immunity to build before freshers’ week, traditionally held in mid-September.

New risks

The college is reminding young people that they can get the vaccine at GP surgeries, often in a dedicated vaccination clinic with a shorter waiting list. It is available at any time of year, but new university students are particularly at risk as they enter shared accommodation.  

The latest figures from Public Health England show two thirds of those who turned 18 last year did not receive the jab, with a lower uptake than the previous year (39%).

It suggests more than 400,000 school leavers per year in England did not receive the new comprehensive meningitis vaccine, introduced in 2015, incorporating protection against the increasingly common W strain for the first time.

School children who previously received the meningitis C vaccine require the extra catch-up jab.

While cases of other meningitis strains have become less common, cases of MenW are increasing. There were 80 MenW cases between January and March 2017, compared to 72 during the same period in 2016, an increase of 11%.

Spotting the signs

MenW can be harder to spot due to symptoms less traditionally associated with meningitis, including diarrhoea and vomiting.

As part of the new programme since 2015, school leavers should receive a reminder letter from their local GP.

A further reminder is included in letters sent to students by the university admissions service UCAS. But many miss these warnings and the RCN is calling for other forms of communication to be used with the at risk group.

RCN public health lead Helen Donovan said: 'A targeted social media campaign could save lives.

'The low take-up is a serious concern as people starting university are particularly at risk. Letters are not enough – it’s vital we communicate with young people using platforms they are likely to use.

'Meningitis can be fatal, and can leave those who survive with life-changing disabilities. Vaccination is quick, easy and free, and offers protection against most strains of the disease, but reaching young people is not easy.

'Many will have been away over the summer travelling or working before university. But the risk is real and getting vaccinated saves lives.

'We are urging people to contact their surgeries now and book an appointment with the practice nurse.'


In other news

 

 

 

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs