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Thousands of teens get meningitis protection

04 December 2015

More than 3,200 Jersey teenagers have been vaccinated against an aggressive strain of a meningitis infection in the last fortnight.
Meningococcal W disease (known as MenW) is causing a steeply rising meningitis outbreak in the UK, though it has not yet reached Jersey.

Students in years groups 10, 11, 12 and 13 in schools and at Highlands College have been offered the protective MenACWY vaccine to help prevent the disease taking hold in Jersey. More than 82% of those eligible have received it so far.

Disease outbreak

Head of Healthcare Programmes, Dr Linda Diggle said the Public Health Department was very pleased so many pupils had come forward. “We‘ve been following a very clear evidence-based vaccination strategy that’s been recommended by the UK expert Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) who are responding to the UK’s disease outbreak.
"Over a fortnight, we offered a protective vaccination to all pupils in years 10, 11, 12 and 13. Prior to this, in August we vaccinated those heading off to university for the first time to ensure they were protected before they got to university, as well as to 18-year-olds who weren’t leaving the island.
"Our aim has been to provide direct protection to five year groups of teenagers through vaccination. This gives the added benefit of reducing the carriage of the MenW bacteria amongst this age group, which in turn will provide indirect protection to unvaccinated children and adults in Jersey."

Hyper-virulent strain

Dr Diggle explained that Meningococcal W disease is a relatively new threat. It's a particularly aggressive ‘hyper-virulent’ strain with an infection rate that’s been rising steeply in England since 2009 and is expected to be around in the UK for the next decade. The rise is showing no signs of slowing down and the death rate among those infected is around one in six.  She said, "We expect it will reach our shores at some point. We needed to protect our teenagers before it arrives, reduce the chances of it being transmitted and mitigate its impact."
Jersey's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Turnbull said “With the numbers vaccinated, I believe we stand a good chance of preventing this aggressive strain of meningitis from getting a foothold in our island. In the UK, Public Health England colleagues are working hard to bring this disease under control and we’ll continue monitoring the situation very closely.”

Protect our teenagers

The age range recommended for the vaccination covers those born between 1 September 1996 and 31 August 2001. Any young people in this age range who haven’t had the vaccine are urged to attend a drop-in clinic on Wednesday 9 December from 4- 6pm in the out-patient area of the General Hospital (Newgate Street entrance). This session, aimed at those who were absent during the recent ‘school round’, is the final opportunity for those in this age group to have the vaccination. Those attending should bring proof of their age.

Year 9 pupils will receive the vaccine next term as part of their routinely-offered school-based immunisations. After that, all pupils will be offered the vaccination in school when they reach year 9.

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