Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY)

The meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY) vaccine helps protect against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by four groups of meningococcal bacteria A, C, W and Y.

MenACWY Immunisation Programme 2016/17

The MenACWY vaccine is routinely offered to all young people who are in S3 (around 14 years of age) at school. Young people who are in S4-S6 and missed the opportunity to get immunised last year, may also get the vaccine at school this year.

The MenACWY vaccine has replaced the MenC vaccine that was previously used in the routine teenage immunisation programme in S3.

Freshers

Scotland will not be running a Universities freshers programme this year. Due to the success of the MenACWY programme offered to all 14-18 year olds in Scotland during 2015/16, the majority of Scottish entrants to university will have already been immunised and therefore there isn't a need for a specific freshers programme this year in Scotland.

Scottish university entrants starting university this Autumn and who missed the opportunity to get the vaccine last year, should contact their GP Practice who will advise them if it is clinically appropriate for their particular circumstances.

Unvaccinated students coming from other parts of the UK to study in Scotland, should make sure they get the vaccine before they travel to Scotland as there is no guarantee the MenACWY vaccine will be available at Scottish University health centres and GP practices.

Questions and answers

What causes meningitis and septicaemia? 

Meningococcal bacteria are significant causes of meningitis and septicaemia. There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia – A, B, C, W and Y.

Meningococcal bacteria live in the throats of about 25% of young people without causing any problems at all. The bacteria can spread to other people through coughing, sneezing or kissing. The MenACWY programme is targeting young people because of the higher risk of the bacteria spreading among young people your age. 

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What are the main symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia?

A full description of the signs and symptoms meningitis and septicaemia in adolescents can be found on the meningitis information page.

Meningitis and septicaemia are very serious diseases that need urgent medical treatment. If you think you’ve got either, get help immediately and make sure your friends know to look out for you and each other.

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How do I do the glass test?

Someone with septicaemia may develop a rash which will not fade under pressure. You can check by doing a ‘glass test.’

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How common is meningococcal disease?

Thanks to a very successful MenC immunisation programme, meningococcal group C disease is now rare. However, since 2009, there has been a large increase in MenW disease across the country, including several deaths among young people.

For people who get meningococcal disease, the effects for the individual and their family are devastating.

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Who is eligible for the vaccine?

Since 2009, there has been a year-on-year increase in the number of cases of meningococcal W (MenW) infection in the UK. You are more at risk of getting meningitis and septicaemia from MenW as a teenager or young adult. The MenACWY vaccine is offered to all young people in S3 at school. Young people in S4-S6 who missed the opportunity to get immunised, may get the vaccine at school this year.

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Why do I need to get the vaccine?

You have a higher risk of getting meningococcal disease because of your age. You need to get immunised to protect yourself as well as to protect others around you.

You may recently have had a MenC vaccine to protect you against meningococcal C infection but this will not protect you against MenW. Having the MenACWY vaccine after getting the MenC vaccine will not only give you better protection against MenC infection, but will also protect you against the other three meningococcal groups (A, W and Y).

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When will I get the vaccine?

You will get the vaccine at school from January 2017. Look out for the letter that will be sent to you. 

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Do I have to have the vaccine?

It’s your choice, but it’s recommended that all young people aged 14–18 years get the vaccine to protect themselves from very serious illnesses, as well as to help protect others.

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Is the vaccine safe?

Before they are allowed to be used, all medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness. Once they are in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored.

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Does the immunisation hurt? What are the common side effects?

Like all vaccines, the MenACWY vaccine can cause side effects, but they are generally mild and soon settle. Getting the vaccine is like a short sting. The most common side effects for young people are redness, hardening and itching at the injection site, headache, nausea and fatigue. If you feel unwell at any time after getting immunised, you should contact your GP.

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Do I need parental consent? 

You and your parents, or carer, should discuss the information in this leaflet before agreeing to have the immunisation. Parental agreement is always advised, although it is not always necessary. If you or your parents have any questions about having the immunisation, you can talk to your practice nurse or your GP if you feel you need more information about any aspect of the immunisation programme.

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Where can I get more information?

More information about the different meningococcal vaccines (MenB, Hib/MenC) is also available on this site. 

You can call the NHS inform helpline on 0800 22 44 88 (text phone 18001 0800 22 44 88). The helpline is open every day 8am to 10pm and provides an interpreting service.

For more information, advice and support about meningitis contact the Meningitis Research Foundation via their website or by telephone (080 8800 3344) or Meningitis Now (0808 80 10 388).

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Last reviewed on 28 October 2016

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