Meningitis Now staff - Mark Hunt

A welcome for PM’s words on meningitis vaccinations

Mark Hunt | 23rd August 2019

We’ve welcomed the Prime Minister’s efforts to boost the number of children being MMR vaccinated against life-threatening diseases

Meningitis Now CEO comments on PM's vaccine news

Boris Johnson’s comments around increasing the MMR vaccine uptake echo our concerns about the importance of people getting vaccinated. This is especially the case with MMR, given that people who contract mumps may go on to develop meningitis.

His intervention is welcome as it helps to raise vaccine awareness just as the next phase of our student and young people campaign to get those aged 16 to 24 vaccinated with a free meningococcal ACWY vaccine (MenACWY) kicks off. Improving the vaccination rate will save lives in the coming year.

With MenACWY vaccine uptake levels of around 40% for some young adults, our Chief Executive, Dr Tom Nutt, echoes PM Boris Johnson’s comments, saying, “Our whole vaccination system needs to work harder to protect all people, and particularly those who might be considered hard to reach.” 

“The low level of uptake of the MenACWY among teenagers and young adults is a deeply worrying situation; with each year, other children who miss the vaccine at school add to the one million who have already missed this vaccine so far. When combined with the fact that most of these young people don’t even recognise the risk of contracting the disease or the consequences of not being vaccinated, the issue becomes even more worrying.”

Calling on parents

In our campaign to get these young people vaccinated, we’re calling on parents of all young people to take the issue of vaccination into their own hands and make sure that their children, whether they are 16 or 24, are protected with the MenACWY vaccine.

“As a parent I know that caring for the health and wellbeing of my children will not cease when they reach the age of 17, nor do I expect young people to consider their health a top priority, particularly when there are so many ‘more important’ things to be done” Dr Nutt adds.

“For these reasons, but mostly because, like me, most parents care deeply about our children, they should simply check their children’s MenACWY vaccine status and get them protected if they have missed it – you never know, it could just save their life,” concludes Dr Nutt.

Remain eligible

The MenACWY vaccine has been offered since autumn 2015 for children in school at around 14 years of age. To ensure older children also received this vaccine, it was offered to those aged between 15 and 18 in a three-year ‘catch-up’ programme, delivered through schools and GP surgeries. Teens who missed the MenACWY vaccine during the catch-up programme remain eligible for the vaccine up to the age of 25.

Take up of the vaccine delivered as part of the GP catch-up programme remains low at an estimated 40 per cent. Uptake in the school-based programme is around 85 per cent. 

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord. There are about 2,000 cases each year of bacterial meningitis.

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