Promoting Men ACWY vaccination

With the rapid increase in MenW cases in university students in recent years a new vaccine was introduced into the UK immunisation programme in August 2015

MARM Uni lb 5 Promoting ACWY

This Men ACWY vaccine has replaced the Men C vaccine. As the name suggests this vaccine offers protection against four groups of meningococcal bacteria. 

While it does not prevent all meningococcal disease, it is a vital way to help protect the student population. The vaccine also reduces the risk of students carrying the bacteria so protects other people around them.

Who gets the vaccination and when?

The Men ACWY vaccination is being offered to teenagers and first-time students in a carefully planned programme over three years, 2015-2017. The priority is to vaccinate all teenagers aged 14-18 years in school or by their GP, as part of this targeted programme. There is also a catch-up vaccination programme for first-time students.

Uptake of the vaccine across the UK has been variable with only 33% of school leavers in England taking up the vaccine in 2016. This figure is much higher in teenagers offered the vaccine at a younger age as part of the routine immunisation programme.

University students:

Those students going to university for the first time who haven’t had the vaccine should contact their GP, ideally before the start of, or in the first few weeks of the academic year. This includes overseas and mature students up to the age of 25 years. This is particularly important for overseas students who may have a different vaccination schedule in their home country and be unaware of UK policy.

Universities can play a vital role in improving vaccine uptake.

  • When contacting students prior to coming to university check out their vaccination status. This can be done in their welcome pack. Advise them to contact their GP if they haven’t had the Men ACWY vaccine and get immunised at least two weeks before coming to university. Ideally, the earlier students are vaccinated the more time the body has to build up immunity. This is also a good opportunity to check on other vaccinations, particularly Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
  •  If possible, check their vaccination status again when they arrive. This can be done when registering with the GP or health centre or during welcome weekends
  • Some universities have had great success holding vaccination clinics on campus. You can see the University of Nottingham doing this on page 18 of the in ‘Guidance on the prevention and management of meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia in higher education institutions’ 
  • Information on MenACWY vaccination should be widely distributed to students. For example, printed information e.g. posters can be placed on halls of residence noticeboards and social media platforms can be used to share vaccination messages
Please note: It is important to remember that vaccinations do not offer protection against all forms of meningitis and meningococcal disease; therefore, raising awareness amongst students and staff is vital. Many students believe that they cannot acquire meningitis as they have been vaccinated.

30% of student freshers enrolled in a Northern Ireland university falsely believed that they couldn’t acquire meningitis following vaccination with MenACWY(1). This is a myth that needs to be dispelled.

  1. Moore PJA, Millar BC and Moore JE.  Meningococcal ACWY vaccine uptake and awareness amongst student freshers enrolled at Northern Ireland universities. Int J Adolesc Med Health (2017) Jan 18.