Together we are defeating MenW – latest data proves it

10 Jan 2018
Together we are defeating MenW – latest data proves it
  • Many of our amazing members and Ambassadors have helped us to raise awareness of the MenACWY vaccine
  • Latest data shows that more young people had their free lifesaving vaccine in 2017
  • Cases of MenW have now decreased in 15-24 year olds - the age group eligible for the vaccine

The MenACWY vaccination programme was introduced for teenagers in 2015 to stop a rapid rise in cases of the new and particularly deadly MenW (meningococcal group W meningitis and septicaemia) - a rise that was identified by a genome library funded by Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF).

Since then, uptake of the vaccine has been high in teenagers who have been offered it through school. However, older teenagers (year 13 school leavers) needed to book an appointment with their GP to get their free vaccine, and Public Health England (PHE) data showed that uptake among people who left school in 2015 and 2016 had been worryingly low.

MRF would like to thank the many members and Ambassadors with personal experiences of meningitis and septicaemia who have helped us to campaign and raise awareness.

Data from PHE shows that raising awareness has helped. University freshers are one of the groups at highest risk of the disease, but by the end of August 2016, just before many young people would have been starting university, only around 17% of that year’s school leavers had got the vaccine from their GP. In 2017 that figure improved, with 29.4% of that year’s school leavers having had their vaccine by August.

The latest data shows that this trend is ongoing. Uptake of the vaccine in GP practices for people who left school in 2017 was 38.4% by the end of November.

In addition, more of the people who became eligible for the vaccine in 2015 and 2016 have now got it too. By the end of November 2017, 39.6% of people in the first vaccine cohort (people who left school in 2015) and 36.5% of the people in the second cohort (people who left school in 2016) had had it.

All three cohorts remain eligible for vaccination until the age of 25 and we hope that vaccine uptake continues to rise.

Several studies have also shown that uptake of the MenACWY vaccine is higher amongst university students.

The MenACWY vaccine is working

Cases of MenW have been increasing amongst all age groups in recent years, but the most recent data from July 2016 - June 2017 shows a decrease in cases amongst 15-24 year olds - the age group eligible for the vaccine. This shows that the vaccine is directly protecting those being vaccinated. There have been no cases of MenW in people vaccinated against MenACWY.

At MRF’s conference in November, PHE were delighted to say that there have been falls in university associated cases. No data has been published yet since June 2017, but early indications are that MenW cases are decreasing across multiple age groups.

This could be early evidence that ‘herd protection’ is beginning to take effect. Teenagers and young adults are the main carriers of the meningococcal bacteria. By vaccinating them against the disease, they are no longer carrying the bacteria or spreading it to other age groups. This should mean that over time, transmission of the bacteria will be so low that most of the population will be protected.

It’s easy to find out who is eligible for the MenACWY vaccine at www.meningitis.org/oneshot.

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