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Men ACWY (meningitis)

The vaccine:  Men ACWY - brand names Menveo® and Nimenrix®

The claim:
"The Men ACWY vaccine provides good protection against serious infections caused by four different meningococcal groups (A, C, W and Y) including meningitis and septicaemia." [1]

Why is it offered to students?

According to the NHS, teenagers and university students are at high risk of infection because many of them mix closely with lots of new people, some of whom may unknowingly carry the meningococcal bacteria. [2]

The facts:

First of all, it is important to recognise that contracting serious illness from the meningococcal bacteria is exceptionally rare. The meningococcal bacteria live in the back of the nose and throat in about 1 in 10 of the population without causing any illness [3]. So simply by going to school, using public transport, and going to pubs and gigs, you will already have been in close contact with dozens of people carrying this bacteria, with no ill effects. Very occasionally, the meningococcal bacteria can cause serious illness, including meningitis, but this is usually in people who have other serious health or lifestyle issues, such as suffering from HIV/AIDS or being in prison. [9]

What the numbers say:

In the first two quarters of 2015, a total of 452 people contracted meningitis (either A,C,W or Y strains). That is 0.007% of the UK population of 64 million. Further, just 20 of these cases were in the 15-24 age group [4]. Therefore, if you are in that age group, your statistical chances of contracting meningitis of any strain in that period were approximately 0.0003%. To put that into perspective, you had roughly the same chance of being struck by lightning.

It is further worth considering that, minuscule as this risk is, it is not eliminated by having the vaccine. As with all vaccines, Men ACWY does not confer full or lasting immunity to everyone who receives it, as was illustrated by the tragic case of Chris Dhume - a 17-year-old student who died from meningitis, despite being vaccinated against it. [5]

The risks and side effects of the vaccine:

The manufacturer product inserts for meningococcal vaccine list the following adverse events reported during clinical trials or post licensure: fever, drowsiness, fatigue, injection site pain and swelling, sudden loss of consciousness (syncope), diarrhea, headache, joint pain, Guillain Barre Syndrome, brain inflammation, convulsions, and facial palsy. [6]

U.S. Data indicates that over 2,000 serious side effects have been reported as a result of receiving the vaccine; an alarming figure given that it is estimated that less than 10% of serious adverse reactions to vaccines are formally reported.[7] [8]

Vaccine ingredients:

Each dose of Men ACWY vaccine Menveo contains:

N. meningitidis group-specific polysaccharide antigens (A, C, Y, and W-135) 47µg conjugated to Corynebacterium diptheriae CRM197 protein;

Potassium dihydrogen phosphate;


Sodium chloride;

Sodium dihydrogen phosphate monohydrate;

Di-sodium hydrogen phosphate bihydrate;

Water for injection. [11]

Each dose of Men ACWY vaccine Nimenrix contains:

Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A polysaccharide, 5 micrograms;

Neisseria meningitidis serogroup C polysaccharide, 5 micrograms;

Neisseria meningitidis serogroup W-135 polysaccharide, 5 micrograms;

Neisseria meningitidis serogroup Y polysaccharide, 5 micrograms, conjugated to tetanus toxoid carrier protein of 44 micrograms;




Sodium chloride;

Water for injection.[12]

Can I reduce my risk of meningitis without having the vaccine?

Yes. There are other biological and environmental factors that make people more susceptible to meningitis, that you can control and avoid. These include smoking or living in a home where people smoke; a recent respiratory infection; crowded living conditions, such as in military and prisons settings; alcohol use; and an underlying chronic illness, especially immune deficiencies such as lupus or HIV/AIDS.[9]

So if you smoke, consider stopping, and if you live with smokers, ask them to smoke outside and away from the property. Moderate your alcohol use, avoid overcrowded environments, and practice safer sex. Make sure you follow a nutritious diet, and take enough fresh air and sun, along with ensuring sufficient sleep and exercise (do not over-exercise however, as this can weaken the immune system).

Further, ensure you know and can recognise the symptoms of meningitis. Symptoms of meningococcal disease include fever; severe headache; painful, stiff neck; nausea and vomiting; inability to look at bright lights; mental confusion and irritability; extreme fatigue/sleepiness; convulsions and unconsciousness.  [10]

If you or a friend experience such symptoms, contact the emergency services immediately.

STRIVE opinion - is it worth getting this vaccine?

We would advise that for the average healthy young person, this vaccine provides minimal benefits. Meningitis is extremely rare, especially in the 15-24 age-group, and current data suggests you may be more likely to experience an adverse reaction to the vaccine than to contract meningitis. As for all vaccines, we advise you do as much research as possible, read the package insert (linked below), and talk to your healthcare professional before reaching a decision. 




2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.




7. Ibid






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