Meningitis ACWY Vaccination
Learn more about Meningitis and Meningitis ACWY Vaccination.
Book your ACWY vaccine and find out how your local Peak Pharmacy travel clinic can help you travel safely.
About The Vaccine
Vaccine: Meningitis ACWY (various brands including Menveo and Nimenrix)
Dose: Primary immunisation is 1 dose
Route: Intramuscular injection
Booster: Meningitis boosters are not usually required, good protection demonstrated for at least 5 years. Booster doses may be required for certification purposes eg Hajj/Umrah
Transmission: Spread through respiratory droplets eg coughs and sneezes
What is Meningitis ACWY?
Meningitis is a devastating disease caused by a number of different bacteria and viruses that lead to the swelling of the meninges, a protective layer that surrounds your brain and spinal cord. Very prompt medical attention is required as around 1 in 10 people will die and 1 in 5 will have severe complications. Although relatively uncommon, this is a disease that will have a very severe impact on an individual’s life.
Many different bacteria and viruses can cause Meningitidis, including Neisseria meningitis, Streptococcus Pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae and group B streptococcus. The focus of this article is on Neisseria meningitidis, also known as Meningococcus.
The disease can be further classified into 12 groups. The most common groups, known as serotypes are A,B,C,W,X and Y. You will have likely heard of the Meningitis B vaccination, and you may even have noticed that we vaccinate all infants in the UK against meningitis C as well.
The UK national immunisation schedule now also vaccinates teenagers against strains A, C, W and Y using a combined ACWY vaccine prior to university. Thankfully through effective vaccination programmes, meningitis caused by Neisseria meningitidis is rare in the UK, but unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere in the world.
The incubation period for meningitis infections is approximately 2-10 days and if the symptoms below are present urgent medical attention should be sought.
Meningitis symptoms typically present with a sudden onset of fever, throbbing headache, nausea and vomiting, neck stiffness and photophobia (avoiding bright light). A rash is often present that at first may not be visible, but as the infection develops the rash often becomes more purplish in colour and may not blanch under a glass.
How do you get Meningitis?
The meningitis bacteria are commonly found in healthy individuals’ nasal cavities and throat. It is unknown why healthy individuals can carry the disease but do not become infected but the risk of acquiring the disease is greater where people live in close proximity. Examples include mass gatherings, refugee camps, overcrowded housing and student settings like universities.
Globally, the greatest burden of the disease is across the African meningitis belt. The meningitis belt is comprised of 26 sub-Saharan countries extending from Senegal to Ethiopia with surrounding countries to the North and South becoming epidemic risk zones. These include common travel destinations like Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria to name but a few. The majority of epidemics occur during the dry season, December through June.
Why am I at risk of getting Meningitis?
Travelling to regions of the world where meningitis outbreaks occur will put you at increased risk. The risk is further increased if you are visiting friends, and family or are working with the local population.
One of the most common reasons for vaccination is to attend Hajj or Umrah. Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages take place in Saudi Arabia. All Muslims must (if they can) travel to Mecca in Saudi Arabia to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. In 2022 a limit of One million Hajj visas were allocated for 7th-12th July 2022, but this pales in comparison to 2012 where it is estimated that around 3.1 million visitors completed Hajj during the short 6-day window. With this many visitors from all over the world, it is not surprising that infections like meningitis ACWY can spread rapidly.
How can I prevent a Meningitis infection?
Meningitis infections are best prevented through routine vaccination. In Africa, routine immunisation against Meningitis A has significantly reduced the number of A cases reported, but cases of C, W and Y are still present.
There are 2 vaccines that are routinely used in the UK for travel and these are Menveo and Nimenrix. These conjugate vaccines are suitable for use in young children and adults and confer long-lasting immunity against meningitis strains A, C, W and Y. Current evidence suggests at least 5 years of protection. Prior to these new conjugate vaccines, ACWY vax was the most commonly used vaccine. This has since been withdrawn from the market in favour of these newer much better vaccines, Menveo and Nimenrix.
What side effects could I expect from a meningitis ACWY vaccine?
As mentioned earlier ACWY vaccines are safe and effective; adverse events are infrequent. All licenced vaccines in the UK are inactivated vaccines. This means they cannot cause the disease that we are attempting to protect you against. In this respect, they are just like the Flu Vaccine which should also be considered a travel vaccine depending on the season and destination you are travelling to. Typical adverse events are usually limited to:
- Injection site reactions like a sore arm or redness swelling or tenderness at the injection site
- Low-grade fever (greater than 37.5C)
- Fatigue and Tiredness
These symptoms will usually resolve within a few days and require only paracetamol or a cold compress (if swelling at the injection site) to manage them.
Can I get a meningitis ACWY vaccine free from my doctor?
Typically the answer is no, however, ACWY vaccination is provided on the NHS as part of the national childhood immunisation programme and you may be eligible for a catch-up programme if you missed your vaccine when it was scheduled. Please speak with your GP or consult the national schedule.
Unfortunately, only your GP surgery can provide the vaccine free of charge (if eligible) and they may not provide you with a certificate if travelling for Hajj or Umrah. It is also worth noting that not all surgeries offer travel services and you may need to give your surgery 8 weeks’ notice to get an appointment.
Our teams at Peak Pharmacy will always tell you what vaccines you can get free of charge on the NHS, but for your information, these are Typhoid, Tetanus / Diphtheria / Polio, Hepatitis A and Cholera.
To book an appointment for a meningitis ACWY vaccine please phone your nearest participating Peak Pharmacy travel clinic: