Nurses will be helping deliver a new vaccination programme aimed at teenagers from today in England, Wales and Scotland.
The new MenACWY vaccination programme will offer teenagers protection against meningitis and septicaemia caused by four meningococcal strains, including MenW.
GP surgeries are expected to invite teenagers aged 17 and 18 – born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 1997 – for the vaccine.
All adolescents born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 1997 in England are eligible for vaccination regardless of their future career plans.
Public Health England has told those planning to go to university this year that it is important they get vaccinated before they leave home.
The vaccine is being introduced in response to a rapidly growing increase in cases of a highly aggressive strain of meningococcal disease – group W.
Cases of MenW have been increasing year-on-year, from 22 cases in 2009 to 117 in 2014. It is currently responsible for around a quarter of all confirmed meningococcal cases in England.
In March 2015, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation concluded that the trend was likely to continue unless action was taken, and advised ministers that 14- to 18-year-olds should be immunised against MenW.
A vaccination programme was subsequently announced in June by ministers in England and Scotland, followed a month later by those in Wales.
As well as MenW, the vaccination also protects against meningococcal disease types A, C and Y.
Chris Head, chief executive of the Meningitis Research Foundation, said he was “delighted that the government has moved so quickly to halt the rise of MenW”.
He said increased emergence of MenW was “particularly worrying as it causes more severe illness and a higher death rate than other strains”.
A second MenB vaccination programme announced at the same time and targeted at young children will begin on 1 September.
Due to demand for the vaccine, Public Health England warned that ordering may need to be halted at some points during the campaign.
In this situation, healthcare professionals and providers will be kept informed through the ImmForm vaccine ordering website and PHE’s Vaccine Update newsletter, it said.
There are four parts to the MenACWY campaign:
- an urgent catch-up campaign starting in August 2015 for current school year 13 age adolescents through general practice using a call and recall system
- a catch-up campaign for current school year 10 students through schools from January 2016
- adding MenACWY vaccine to the routine adolescent schools programme (school year 9 or 10) from Autumn 2015, as a direct replacement for the MenC vaccination
- adding MenACWY vaccine to the existing time-limited ‘freshers’ programme that will be offered through general practice, as a direct replacement of the MenC vaccination