This is a transcript of my column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 22 August 2016.
Last week, a good proportion of Doncaster teenagers eagerly – or apprehensively – opened the letter which revealed their A level results, marking the end of their secondary school education. I hope there were more cheers than tears.
For those going on to further education, it’s now a very busy time with plenty to sort out. No doubt, local parents will be starting to fill boxes with ‘useful’ items for their offspring to take with them.
But amidst all the excitement, there’s an important task that I encourage students to put on their ‘must do’ list before going off to college or university.
Please check you have been vaccinated against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) due to the MenW bug being one of the most aggressive and deadly strains of Meningitis. Nationally, cases of MenW have been increasing year-on-year, from 22 cases in 2009 to nearly 200 cases in the past 12 months.
Mums and dads please note, and remind your youngsters to get a jab if they have not already had this at school vaccination sessions. In March this year only 35 per cent of that group have been vaccinated.
There are a number of strains of the infection and this vaccination gives protection against four of them: MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY. These illnesses can be deadly and survivors are often left with life-changing disabilities.
Young people going to university or college are particularly at risk of meningitis and septicaemia because they mix with many other students, some of whom are unknowingly carrying the bacteria. But anyone in this age group is strongly advised to get the vaccination, whether starting college or not.
Doncaster GPs will soon be inviting local people in the following age groups to get vaccinated at their surgery as soon as possible:
- all 17 and 18 year olds (school year 13; born between 1/9/1997 to 31/08/1998);
- 19-year-olds who missed getting vaccinated last year (anyone born between 1/9/1996 to 31/08/1997);
Public Health England, which oversees the vaccination programme, is also advising anyone aged up to 25 who is starting university to get vaccinated by their GP.
Ideally you should get vaccinated before term starts to ensure immunity. But you can still get the jab from your new GP in your college town.
The vaccination programme was introduced last year in response to a large increase in infections caused by a highly aggressive strain of meningococcal bacteria.
The disease can develop suddenly and progress rapidly. Early symptoms include headache, vomiting, muscle pain, fever, and cold hands and feet. You should be alert to the signs and symptoms and should not wait for a rash to develop before seeking medical attention urgently. Please also look out for your mates, particularly if they go to their room unwell.
The vaccine not only protects those who are vaccinated, but also helps control the spread of the disease amongst the wider population.