This vaccine gives protection against four types of meningococcal disease caused by groups A, C, W and Y (MenA, MenC, MenW and MenY). Meningococcal disease is a major cause of meningitis and septicaemia. It can affect all age groups, but the rates of disease are highest in children under five years of age. It is also often seen in young people aged 15 to 19.
It can safely be given at the same time as the Teenage Booster vaccine. Read more about multiple vaccinations and why these are not a risk to your child's immune system.
The vaccine does not contain any live bacteria, and it cannot cause meningococcal disease.
The MenACWY vaccine was introduced in the UK in summer 2015 because of the recent increase in cases of MenW disease in the UK (see 'More information about the vaccine' below).
Two brands of MenACWY vaccine are used in the UK: Menveo (see the Patient Information Leaflet ) and Nimenrix (see the Patient Information Leaflet ).
Who should have the vaccine?
In the UK the MenACWY vaccine is given to teenagers as part of the routine NHS schedule. It is usually given to all students in school years 9 or 10 (at around 14 years of age).
There is a catch-up programme for anyone aged 15 or older who has missed out on MenACWY vaccinination. Young people are entitled to receive the vaccine any time up to their 25th birthday. This includes students aged up to 25 years attending university for the first time, as well as those who are not in higher education. Students of any nationality entering a UK university for the first time who have not had MenACWY vaccine are also eligible up to their 25th birthday.
The MenACWY vaccine is also recommended for people with some long-term health conditions who are at greater risk of complications from meningococcal disease. This includes people with:
- asplenia or splenic dysfunction (a spleen that is missing or does not work properly)
- sickle cell anaemia
- coeliac disease
- complement disorders (the complement system is an important part of the immune system)
What protection does the vaccine give?
The vaccine boosts protection against MenC disease (for those who received a MenC vaccine as a baby). It also protects against MenA, MenW and MenY meningococcal disease. One dose of the vaccine offers very good protection. It has been used for many years as a travel vaccine and has an excellent safety profile.
The main aim of giving this vaccine is to protect young people against four different types of meningococcal disease. 15-19 year olds are more at risk from meningococcal disease than any other age group except the under 5s. However, it is expected that vaccinating this age group will also offer herd protection against MenW and MenC disease for the rest of the population, including infants. This is because teenagers and young adults are the main carriers of meningococcal bacteria, which are carried at the back of the nose and throat. People who are immunised can no longer carry the bacteria and pass them on to others in the population.
A high proportion of young people need to be vaccinated to achieve herd protection. In October 2018 the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) issued a statement about meningococcal vaccination . This outlined the importance of improving vaccine uptake in 18-25 year olds who have so far missed out on MenACWY vaccination. (Currently MenACWY vaccine uptake is 80-85% in young people aged 14-16 years, 70-80% in those aged 16-18 years, and around 40% in those aged 18-21 years.)