As students get set to start university next month, a local GP is urging them to take up the offer to be vaccinated against the deadly meningitis infection.
Dr Nick Tait, who divides his time between his Leamington NHS surgery and TFJ Private GP Services, a private medical group of doctors based at the Nuffield Health Warwickshire Hospital, said he is concerned about reports from the Royal College of Nursing that only one third of eligible teenagers in England got their free vaccination last year.
Older teenagers and new university students are at particularly high risk of meningitis because they are mixing closely with lots of new people. The disease can be spread by coughs, sneezes and kissing.
A rapid increase in cases of MenW – one of the deadliest strains of the disease – have been reported across England in recent years, rising from 22 in 2009-10 to 210 in 2015-16.
Dr Tait is hoping more young people can be convinced to ensure they are immunised.
He said: “Addressing this issue is more of a challenge with teenagers because they are usually busy doing other things. It’s not like with children, where you can just take them to a surgery.
“Some schools do offer the vaccinations, as do some universities in the early weeks of term, but quite a few teenagers do not even realise they can have the jab.
“This is about raising awareness, educating people about the threat of meningitis and making sure they know how to protect themselves against it.”
The issue has been highlighted nationally by the case of Charlotte Hannibal, 21, who lost both her legs and all of the fingers on her left hand after she fell ill with MenW, one of the most aggressive forms of meningitis, just after starting university.
The MenACWY jab protects against four strains of meningococcal disease which cause meningitis and septicaemia – strains A, C, W and Y.
Young people who have not yet had this vaccine remain eligible up to their 25th birthday and should contact their GP to make an appointment.