Parents are reminded to check whether their child is protected by the MenACWY vaccination and to contact their child’s GP if they still require a vaccine.
The campaign highlights the uptake of the MenACWY vaccine across the different UK regions, indicating where rates are particularly low.
First year or returning students can be at increased risk of meningitis as they mix with large numbers of other students from around the country and overseas. Low immunity levels and a lack of exposure to infections during the pandemic has left young people vulnerable to meningitis, especially those who remain unprotected against four strains of meningococcal disease by the MenACWY vaccine.
Some know more than most the devastating impact this disease can have and the importance of ensuring all young people are vaccinated.
Our supporters, including Ed Cook, Tilly Lockey, Ailsa Sugrue and Tracy Hilton have once more bravely shared their stories to help support the campaign.
Lewis Hilton, from Halifax, was just 19 when he died of meningitis in January 2018.
Lewis had been working alongside his dad as a joiner when he started to feel ill and went home. He had a headache and took some tablets during the night, but by the morning it had become significantly worse.
Talking me through meningitis symptoms
Lewis’s mum Tracy called 111 and recognised that the operator was asking about meningitis. She said: “I knew they were talking me through meningitis symptoms. There was no rash, he was okay with light. The only thing on the list was he couldn’t put his chin to his chest. Then we took him straight to A&E at the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax and by the time we got there his headache was really bad.”
Lewis was treated for viral and bacterial meningitis before being transferred to intensive care at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. By 11pm he was unable to breathe on his own and was put on a ventilator. Shortly after, Lewis sadly died due to an infection caused by meningococcal group B bacteria.
The “kind, loving and caring” youngster was a keen rugby player, representing Old Rishworthians from the age of 6.
Tracy said: “Nobody should go through this, and if we can help one person avoid it then we want to do that.”
Lewis had received his MenACWY vaccination four months before he became ill, but this does not protect against MenB. Tracy added: “If we had been aware of the availability of the MenB vaccination at the time we would also have paid for that.” MenB is currently only given to babies on the NHS but is available to others privately.
Tracy added: “I would encourage parents to make sure that their children receive their routine vaccinations. Thankfully, both the MenACWY and MenB vaccinations are now part of the free NHS routine vaccinations programme.”
Strike anyone at any time
Our chief executive, Dr Tom Nutt, said: “Meningitis is a devastating disease that can strike anyone at any time and leave havoc in its wake. Many young people will know of someone from their community whose life, and that of their family and friends, has been torn apart by its impact.
“With vaccination the only way to protect yourself against the misery this disease inflicts we’d urge all those who haven’t yet taken advantage of this free MenACWY vaccination to do so as soon as possible. The good news is that by doing so you will not just be protecting your own health but that of your friends and the wider community too.”
The campaign also warns that the MenACWY vaccination does not protect against all types of the disease so it is important to learn the signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical attention if meningitis is suspected.
The awareness campaign is taking place throughout November and December 2022 and is funded by GlaxoSmithKline. It uses the lived meningitis experience of three teenagers to highlight the impact the disease can and does have and is supported by a website, www.tacklemeningitis.org.