Meningitis is passed from person to person who are in close contact via nasal or throat droplets, for example by coughing, sneezing or kissing. The meningitis ACWY vaccination protects you against infection from the A, C, W and Y types of bacteria.
About the vaccine
- When to get vaccinated: If you are getting vaccinated prior to going to a risk area you should aim to get the jab at least two weeks before.
- Course: The course consists of one dose.
- Boosters: Boosters aren’t currently recommended. However, you can get a booster five years after your last jab if you need it for a meningitis ACWY certificate.
- How it is given: Injection in the upper arm.
- Side effects: The ACWY vaccine can cause mild side effects, such as redness and swelling at the injection site and tiredness. Some people also report having a high temperature as a result of the injection.
- Children: The vaccine can be given from birth.
- Additional precautions: Early treatment is vital – if you or a fellow traveller show symptoms of meningitis, seek medical attention immediately. The ACWY vaccine does not protect against meningitis B.
- Risk if you contract the disease: Meningitis can cause an inflammation of the tissue around the spinal cord and brain. This can result in brain damage and death.
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If you are planning to travel abroad, you need to check whether you will be entering a meningococcal meningitis risk area. Meningitis is particularly prominent in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, an area sometimes referred to as the “meningitis belt”, where meningitis A is the most frequent cause of the illness, but there have been recent outbreaks of W, X and C.
The meningitis vaccine consists of one single dose, which is administered by injection. You should arrange an appointment with your Superdrug travel nurse or pharmacist at least three weeks before the date of your departure.
It is recommended that students attending university for the first time, receive a single dose of Meningitis ACWY. There is currently a routine NHS vaccine programme for all children in year 9.
The meningitis ACWY vaccine provides protection for at least 5 years. No boosters are currently required except for certificate purposes. Some countries, for example Saudi Arabia, demand that you provide a meningitis ACWY certificate prior to entering the country.
What is meningitis?
There are several types of meningitis which can affect travellers, including meningitis A, C, W, and Y. They are all types of meningococcal meningitis and are caused by bacteria. As opposed to viral meningitis, bacterial meningitis is very dangerous. Causing an inflammation of the meningeal tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord, Neisseria meningitidis bacteria can cause severe brain damage. Around 10% of meningitis patients can die of the infection, even with treatment. The symptoms of meningitis vary from person to person but usually, the infection involves a severe headache, a high temperature and vomiting. Some patients also suffer from a stiff neck, are unusually sensitive to light and feel exhausted. The most typical symptom of meningitis is a skin rash, which occurs in many but not all cases. In addition to the traditional meningitis C vaccine, there is a meningitis ACWY vaccine, which provides protection against all four meningitis types included in its name. It is particularly suitable for travellers who may be at risk of contracting any one of the four types.
Some countries, for example Saudi Arabia, demand that you provide a meningitis ACWY certificate prior to entering the country. The vaccine is compulsory for the Hajj pilgrimage.
Meningitis certificate for students
It is especially recommended that students attending university for the first time receive a single dose of Meningitis ACWY.
When to see a doctor
Bacterial meningitis can be treated with an antibiotic. Early treatment is vital in order to prevent severe symptoms and possible irreparable damage to the brain. If you notice any meningitis symptoms in you or a fellow traveller, you should always seek help at a local hospital. Meningitis is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention, which is not always available when travelling. A meningitis ACWY vaccine protects effectively against type A, C, W, and Y. It does not provide protection against meningitis type B.
You may experience some side effects after having received the meningitis acwy jab. These may include fever, nausea, headache and feeling tired. You may also experience some skin irritation at the injection site. Some patients develop a small lump where the injection was given. This lump will resolve by itself within a few weeks.
If you experience any other side effects or if the symptoms do not resolve, see a doctor. If a you have a high fever over 38.5 that lasts more than 24 hours you would also need to see a doctor and ask them to report this.
Very common and common side effects include:
- Hardening at the injection site
- Feeling sick
- Feeling generally unwell
- Gastrointestinal disturbances