A deadly strain of MenW (Meningococcal W) disease is rising at an alarming rate in the UK. MRF’s Meningococcal Genome Library was instrumental in identifying this strain.
The strain is causing meningitis and septicaemia across all age groups especially babies, healthy teenagers and young adults and has a higher death rate associated with it than other strains of meningococcal disease.
Government advisors, the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI), have concluded that the increase in MenW disease in England and Wales constitutes an outbreak situation. They have advised that a programme to immunise everyone aged 14-18 years of age should be implemented as soon as is practicable in order to generate herd protection against MenW and prevent further rapid increases in disease amongst the rest of the population. The MenACWY vaccine will also be offered to first time university entrants up to the age of 25 as a direct replacement of the current freshers MenC vaccination.
Sufficient MenACWY vaccine has now been procured to vaccinate all 17 and 18 year olds born between 1st September 1996 and 31st August 1997 as well as older university freshers over the summer. As there is no longer an opportunity to vaccinate eligible 17 to 18 year olds in the education setting, they will be vaccinated in GP surgeries, via a GP call recall system. Older university freshers will not be contacted by their GP and must self-identify their need for vaccination or be offered the vaccine by GPs on an opportunistic basis .
The MenACWY will replace the routine teenage booster of MenC currently administered to children at around 14 years of age in schools.
A catch up programme to vaccinate 14 to 17 year olds who are not due the adolescent booster will take place over the next two years throughout the UK, although this catch up programme will be completed within one year in Scotland.
Both conjugate MenACWY vaccines, Menveo and Nimenrix, can be used for this programme.
Health professionals are urged to remain vigilant to the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease and keep a high index of suspicion for the MenW strain.Read more about the rise in MenW diseaseMore in depth information on MenACWY vaccine implementation
Information and training slides for immunisers have been produced by Public Health England:
Scottish Chief Medical Officer guidance letter is available from: