Figures released by Public Health England show that just 11.1 per cent of 18-year-olds eligible to get the Men ACWY vaccine between April and July this year had taken up the offer.
That leaves about half a million young people in England in this age group still at risk from the disease.
“We know it is early days for this programme, but these initial figures are very disappointing,” our chief executive Liz Brown said.
“Much effort has gone into emphasising the need for young people going off to university to get the Men ACWY vaccination. Whilst this is important we must not forget that meningitis does not discriminate and that all young adults, whether they are going to Uni or not, are at risk.”
“We understand that exams and holidays will have had an impact on these poor results and call upon GPs to double their efforts and ensure that this group, who could be staying at home whilst attending a local college or entering the world of work, is not exposed to this deadly disease.”
Encourage more to take this lifesaving step
“Hopefully our ongoing campaign aimed at parents will encourage more of them to take this simple and potentially lifesaving step and we’ll see this percentage increase.”
Men ACWY immunisation was added to the national programme in August 2015 following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in response to the rising number of meningococcal W (Men W) cases.
Figures from 94 per cent of GP practices, released by PHE on 26 August, show that for the second cohort offered the vaccine through GPs (those born between 1 September 1997 to 31 August 1998) take up rates for NHS regions varied between 21 per cent (Midlands and East (East)) and 6.7 per cent (England North (Lancashire and Greater Manchester)) and averaged just 11.1 per cent.
Just 5.9 per cent
The area with lowest take up was Merseyside (5.9 per cent) and the highest 36.3 per cent in Essex.
Coverage for the earlier cohort (those born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 1997) was 36.6 per cent at the end of July.
A final catch-up programme will start in April 2017 for those born between 1 September 1998 and 31 August 1999.