Why I......believe students need to prove they have been vaccinated against meningitis

March 3, 2000

We need to engineer ways to vaccinate students against meningitis. Perhaps we should issue documents as proof of vaccination. Then students would have to show their certificates before collecting their grant cheques.

Simply reminding students of the dangers of meningitis does not seem to be enough. Our most recent survey showed that although 91 per cent of students took meningitis seriously, only 53 per cent had been immunised because the rest "had not got around to it".

Doctors need to write to all patients of a relevant student age to encourage them to come for a vaccination. We also need to include mature and part-time students.

Meningitis is most common when people mix in clubs and bars and restaurants, where lots of different strains of the virus are brought together. Students are often at risk. This is why seating students in rows is much safer than putting them in groups around tables. At least in rows, they can cough and splutter onto the back of each other's heads, rather than directly onto faces.

When researchers at Nottingham University swabbed the noses of first-year students on the first day of freshers' week they found that a few of them already carried the undeveloped meningitis virus. The swabs taken at the end of the week revealed that most students now carried the virus.

Nobody should panic if they have not had the jab yet. It is available free from local GPs and university health services. There has been a 75 per cent uptake over the whole country and I hope we can move closer to the 90 per cent target.

Dr Nigel Higson General practitioner and chairman of the Primary Care Virology Group

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