The Men ACWY vaccine is given by a single injection into the upper arm and protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia – meningococcal (Men) A, C, W and Y.
Meningococcal disease, including meningitis W, is caused by a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis (also called the meningococcus). These bacteria can be divided into 13 different groups. Of these 13 different groups, five (A, B, C, W and Y) are responsible for nearly all serious meningococcal infections. The meningococcal bacteria live in the back of the nose and throat in about 1 in 10 of the population without causing any illness.
The bacteria are spread from person to person by close prolonged contact with a person carrying the bacteria, such as coughing, kissing and sneezing. Very occasionally; the meningococcal bacteria can cause serious illness, including meningitis and septicaemia. Meningococcal infections can strike at any age, but babies, young children and teenagers are especially vulnerable.
How does my child get this vaccination?
Children aged 13 to 14 (school year 9) are offered the Men ACWY vaccine in school as part of the routine adolescent schools programme alongside the Td/IPV teenage booster, and as a direct replacement for the Men C vaccination.
When your son or daughter reaches eligible age (currently all children in year 9 and 10) you will be sent a letter via school, or if your child is not in school this will be sent to your home address. The letter will advise you that you need to complete consent from. Consent forms can be found by clicking the links on our immunisation page. If you are not able to access the consent form and complete it online please do contact us on 0300 123 5205 and we will send a paper copy to you.
On the day
It is important that on the day of vaccination that young people wear short sleeves that allow easy access to their upper arms, or wear a vest or t-shirt under their school shirt. Privacy in schools is often limited and it can be embarrassing to remove clothing to be vaccinated. It is also important those being vaccinated eat breakfast and are well hydrated prior to immunisations being given.
Men ACWY is a very safe vaccine but, as with all vaccines, some children may have minor side effects. The most common side effects seen in teenagers and young people are redness, hardening and itching at the injection site, fever, headache, nausea and fatigue. These symptoms should last no more than 24 hours. However, sometimes a small, painless lump develops, but this usually disappears in a few weeks.
The vaccine currently being used in schools is called Nimenrix, for more information please read the Nimenrix leaflet.
Our teams collect the details of children who have been vaccinated and send them to Child Health Records Departments in Kent or East Sussex depending on where you live. The information is then passed to your child’s GP to be held in their records.
Can we help?
If you have any concerns about this vaccination, for example if you are worried because your child is needle phobic, has additional needs, or you want to ask any questions please do contact us on 0300 123 5205 and we can arrange for you to speak to one of your local immunisation nurses.