News from our partners: West Midlands youth encouraged to receive life-saving MenACWY vaccine

News from our partners: West Midlands youth encouraged to receive life-saving MenACWY vaccine
11/11/2022 – permalink Related topics: Health / Associated Organizations

News from our partners UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) – West Midlands (includes Shropshire)

  • The figures raise concern with around 20% of 18-year-olds in some parts of the West Midlands possibly not being vaccinated before they reach university.
  • Samantha, a college student from Birmingham, was rushed to hospital after having all the symptoms of meningitis except the rash.
  • Parents and young adults are urged to check their immunization status with their GP and become familiar with the symptoms of meningitis.

Young people in the West Midlands are at risk of life-threatening meningitis as figures show that uptake of the MenACWY vaccine has been worryingly low in some parts of the region, with Birmingham and the Black Country showing the worst vaccination rates.

Around 1 in 5 students in Birmingham (21.3%), Walsall (18.6%) and Sandwell (17.1%) did not receive their routine vaccination in high school, leaving local teenagers unprotected before arriving at the university this academic year. The best uptake of the MenACWY vaccine was in Coventry, where 4.8% of young people were unvaccinated; followed by Warwickshire, with 5.9% without protection against meningitis.

Caryn Cox, Lead Health Protection Consultant on vaccine preventable diseases for UKHSA West Midlands, said:

“Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis, a dangerous inflammation of the lining that surrounds the brain and spine, and septicemia (blood poisoning), which can lead to sepsis. Meningococcal disease needs urgent treatment and can be life-threatening. This is why the low uptake of the free MenACWY vaccine in parts of the West Midlands is so worrying, because it really can be a matter of life and death.

“Freshmen or returning students are at increased risk of meningitis, mingling with large numbers of other students from across the country and abroad. Low levels of immunity and lack of exposure to infection since the pandemic have left young people even more vulnerable to meningococcal disease, so it is especially important that students receive the MenACWY vaccine if they did not receive it at school.”

One who knows the devastating impact meningitis can have is Samantha Field, a 20-year-old college student from Birmingham who was admitted to hospital with meningitis in April of this year. She said:-

“It started simple with vomiting. I didn’t think anything of it. Must be a disease bug. Then I started to feel weak and had persistent and painful headaches. I tried to get stronger and decided to go on holiday to Brighton. I went to A&E in Brighton to be told it’s sinusitis.

“The headaches stopped me from sleeping, I couldn’t regulate my temperature, I got so weak that it was hard for me to walk. I lost my appetite and on my last day of vacation I was sick after breakfast. I also had a horrible feeling that I was going down like a roller coaster, but I wasn’t, I was sitting on my bed. It was all in my mind. At that time I had all the symptoms of meningitis except the rash. But he didn’t know what meningitis was in detail other than that it caused a rash.

“I deteriorated rapidly, I had excruciating headaches, I was throwing up, I couldn’t walk and my vision was going in and out. At that point, my family knew it wasn’t a sinus infection. My mother took me to the ER and admitted me with suspected meningitis. All of this is just the beginning of my story with meningitis. Every day was a battle, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t cry to my mom or dad and say ‘I can’t do this anymore’ but I did it.

“All of this could have been avoided so easily if I had vaccinated against meningitis, but I didn’t. But what I can do is prevent other people from making the same mistake. If my story can encourage people to get vaccinated or know the signs of meningitis, then my experience is worth it.

“My story is not over yet, I am still fighting. My memory loss and headaches are persistent. I’ve basically had to retrain my body to walk. The body image issues and mental health strain I went through may never go away. But I will continue to push myself with the support of my amazing family and friends. I beat meningitis and I still do it every day.”

sam's field

sam’s field

Often mistaken for the flu, a hangover or COVID-19, students are particularly at risk of missing the early warning signs of meningitis.

A new digital campaign, launched by Meningitis Now, Meningitis Research Foundation, A Life for A Cure, NHS, UKHSA and GlaxoSmithKline is calling on young people to register with a GP, accept MenACWY’s offer and familiarize themselves with the symptoms of meningitis. Parents are reminded to check if their child is protected by the MenACWY vaccine and to contact their child’s GP if they still need a vaccine.

Claire Wright, Head of Evidence and Policy at the Meningitis Research Foundation, said:

“Meningitis can kill healthy people in a matter of hours and is difficult to distinguish from a bad hangover or from more common and mild illnesses in the early stages. By taking the free MenACWY vaccine, high school and college students not only protect themselves but also protect others by preventing the bacteria from being spread. For those who have already been vaccinated, it is still important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis because the free vaccine does not protect against MenB, which is the most common cause of life-threatening meningitis among this age group.”

MenACWY protects against four strains of meningococcal disease, but not all forms, such as MenB, so it is essential that young people know the signs and symptoms of this serious disease and what to do if they are worried about their own health or the health of others. another person.

Symptoms of meningitis and septicemia include: a blotchy rash that does not go away when a glass is passed over it, fever, muscle and joint pain, and neck stiffness. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if you are concerned that you or your child may have meningitis. For more information visit: Meningitis – NHS (www.nhs.uk)

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