Expert advice

Medicines management: How can I encourage uptake of the meningitis vaccine?

Cases of meningitis W are rising rapidly in England, with university first-year students most at risk. Encouraging uptake of the meningitis ACWY vaccine is imperative if we are to protect young people from this horrific illness, says medicines management expert Matt Griffiths.

 

Cases of meningitis W are rising rapidly in England, with university first-year students most at risk. Encouraging uptake of the meningitis ACWY vaccine is imperative if we are to protect young people from this horrific illness, says medicines management expert Matt Griffiths

meningitis
It is imperative that young adults are protected from meningitis.
 Picture: Science Photo Library

In my column about the meningitis ACWY vaccine written around this time last year I warned that the worryingly rapid growth in meningitis W cases across England would continue unless more people were vaccinated. 

Unfortunately, this now seems to be the case. In 2009-10 there were 22 reported cases of meningitis W, rising to 117 by 2014. This figure has now risen again, with a staggering 210 reported cases in 2015-16. 

Teenagers aged 13-14 are routinely offered the vaccine as part of their routine immunisations, but it is those in their first year at university who are at most at risk, as they meet huge numbers of new people and live in close quarters with them in student accommodation.

Spread the word

Anyone eligible under the age of 25 can receive the vaccine, but latest figures from Public Health England reveal that only a third of 18-year-olds took up the offer last year, meaning around 400,000 school leavers did not receive the vaccine before going to university. 

Practice nurses should use noticeboards in GP surgeries and websites to encourage uptake of the vaccine. As social media is likely the most effective way of spreading the message with this age group, RCN public health experts are also calling for an urgent, targeted campaign via social media to reach school-leavers in England. We also need to encourage our patients, families and friends to spread the word. 

Vaccination imperative

Without a good uptake of any vaccine, we don’t gain ‘herd immunity’, where the vaccination of a significant proportion of a population provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. 

Meningitis is a horrific illness which can result in loss of limbs, septicaemia and even death. Vaccination can reduce the number of deaths in these young adults, and it is imperative they are protected as soon as possible. 

There are 68,0000 nurses in the UK. We all need to work together to promote public health initiatives such as this.


Matt Griffiths is visiting professor of prescribing and medicines management at Birmingham City University 

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