A booster dose of the MenC vaccine is being offered to all those born between 1995 and 1999 who will be starting university between 2014 and 2018. The MenC vaccine protects against type C meningococcal disease, and was introduced into the UK schedule in 1999.
It is likely that young people born between 1995 and 1999 will have been vaccinated as young children during the MenC catch-up programme in 1999 and 2000, but they will have missed out on the new booster dose that is now offered to 13-14 year olds. This means they may only have received a single dose of MenC vaccine at a young age, and protection may now have declined. They are therefore at increased risk of catching MenC if they go to university for the first time, which is why a special programme is being offered for this group. It will start in late summer 2014 for those born on or after 1st September 1995.
Meningococcal disease causes a range of serious, life-threatening diseases including septicaemia (blood poisoning) and meningitis. Overall, 1 in 20 cases of meningococcal disease result in death, and death rates are higher still for teenagers and young adults.
It is not fully understood why meningococcal disease develops in some individuals but not in others. Meningococcal disease is spread by prolonged, close contact with an infected person, and researchers have identified risk factors including smoking, previous infection with influenza type A, and living in ‘closed’ or ‘semi-closed’ communities, such as university halls of residence or military barracks.
There are thirteen different types of meningococcal bacteria. The most common strains in the UK are B, C, W and Y. The only type currently protected against in the UK schedule is type C, although a vaccine to protect against type B was recently recommended for introduction into the UK's routine infant immunisation schedule. Each year 600-700 people in the UK develop MenB infection, and around 50 people die. This means that it is still important to be able to recognise the symptoms of meningococcal infection, even if you are vaccinated against MenC.