School leavers, particularly those going to university or college this month, are being reminded to get vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

Figures released today showed less than a fifth of young people across the West Midlands have received the vaccine so far this year.

Last month Public Health England advised all school leavers, but especially 'freshers', to get the jab from their GP to protect against this potentially deadly disease. But by the end of August only 17% of 18 year olds leaving school - not just those going on to university - had been vaccinated.

New students are at greatest risk because they mix closely with large groups of new people, some of whom unknowingly carry the bacteria, enabling it to spread more quickly. With freshers' weeks getting underway, PHE is renewing the call for teenagers to get this highly effective, potentially life-saving injection which protects against group W meningococcal disease, MenW. They can get their jab from their GP, either at home, or where they are studying.

Councillor Paul Sweet, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "Meningitis is a distressing disease and it can be fatal, while survivors are often left with severe disabilities as a result of the infection.

"I'd urge all those who are eligible to make sure they are vaccinated as soon as possible.

"It's also vitally important that young people planning to go to university this year get vaccinated prior to starting. Students are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease, as many of them will be mixing closely with lots of new people at university, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria."

Dr Ash Banerjee, Screening and Immunisation Lead at PHE West Midlands, said: "We've introduced this vaccine because of a rapid increase in cases of MenW across England, with new students particularly at risk. This vaccination is highly effective and can save lives and prevent devastating, lifelong disability.

"It's only a month since we first made our appeal to these teenagers, so we know many will still be making arrangements to get vaccinated. But I strongly urge those who haven't done so to get their injection now. If you're not registered with a GP yet at university, get registered and get your jab.

"New students should be alert to the signs and symptoms and should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention urgently. Students are also encouraged to look out for their friends, particularly if they go to their room unwell."

Teenagers aged 17 and 18 - born between 1 September, 1997 and 31 August, 1998 - and invited to have the vaccine, and Public Health England is urging anyone aged up to 25 who is starting university to also seek the vaccination. The City of Wolverhampton Council's Public Health team is working closely with the University of Wolverhampton to support awareness and vaccination among the student population.

  • released: Monday 19 September, 2016