New university students in Wolverhampton are being urged to ensure they get vaccinated against meningococcal C (MenC) infection before they begin their studies next month.

In the UK, all children are offered MenC vaccine to protect them against MenC infection but, as the protection offered by the vaccine can wane, a booster for teenagers was added last year. For the next few years, university "freshers" will also be eligible for vaccination, until the teenagers who have had the booster reach university age.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "Before they leave home for university, I'd urge all new students to make sure they are vaccinated against this rare but potentially life-threatening infection which can cause meningitis - which is infection of the brain and spinal cord - and septicaemia.

"Students starting university are grouped together with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria, and so could be at risk of infection."

Dr Musarrat Afza, lead consultant in immunisation for Public Health England in the West Midlands, said: "As the protection offered by the infant MenC vaccine wanes over time we are recommending university freshers get a booster before they begin university, even if they received it as a young child.

"The MenC booster is available to any student entering university for the first time born after September 1995 and who received the MenC vaccine under the age of 10, or any student of any age entering or being at university who is unvaccinated against MenC disease. Anyone born before September 1995 and who received the MenC vaccination at secondary school won't need another dose.

"If you can't remember, the best thing to do is to check with your family doctor. Ideally, freshers should have the MenC vaccination at least two weeks before they go away to study. However, anyone starting university without the booster should arrange to get it as soon as possible, via their university or college health centre or GP. If in doubt, there is no harm in having an extra dose."

The vaccine is also important for students coming to study from abroad who are unable to get the vaccine at home.

People should contact their local GP to arrange an appointment as soon as possible.

  • released: Thursday 21 August, 2014