Meningitis fear

August 27, 1999

While I understand why students are concerned about meningitis and want all the protection available, I do not think it is in anyone's interests to believe they are protected when they may not be.

The "old" vaccine, which is to be used for students this year, is reportedly only 40 per cent effective against meningitis C. Students who have received this vaccine could still contract meningitis C, or a different strain, and could delay for a vital few hours if symptoms develop, thinking they and their friends are immune. Yet a few hours can often be the difference between life and death with this illness.

I and many colleagues believe it is far safer to wait until adequate supplies of the new, more effective, vaccine are available and then immunise. Until then students, parents and staff should remain more vigilant. Even after the new vaccine, it will be essential that universities and student unions continue to run awareness campaigns as there will still be risks from meningitis strains for which vaccines have yet to be developed. This will continue to be a challenge for all of us working in student welfare.

Mel Nichol Academic and welfare manager University of Bath Students' Union.

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