Fiona is taking a leading role in a campaign to help protect young people’s health in their constituency. She has signed up to promote meningitis awareness and vaccination take-up with GPs following a Parliamentary reception organised by charity Meningitis Now.
The charity is campaigning to increase the take-up of the lifesaving Men ACWY vaccine, which is available free to school leavers aged 17 to 18 and first-time university students up to the age of 25. This year is the final year of a three year programme to protect young people against the disease, introduced following a Public Health England (PHE) report that showed Men W cases rising by 430 per cent between 2009 and 2014.
Vaccination uptake remains low though at just 33 per cent of those eligible and Meningitis Now estimates this leaves 1.5 million young people at risk. At the same time the number of cases of Men W in England continues to increase, to 210 last year (2015-16) up from 176 the previous year, with one in eight of those affected dying.
“The low uptake of the Men ACWY vaccine among this at-risk group of young people is very worrying. I don’t want to see anyone in my constituency dying because they didn’t know about or didn’t get around to getting this vaccination. As we move towards the peak season for bacterial meningitis I’ll be writing to local GP practices to urge them to do more to promote awareness and encourage improved take-up.
It is vitally important that students and young people protect themselves with the Men ACWY vaccine and learn the signs and symptoms of the disease. It only takes a few minutes and it could save theirs or their friend’s life.”
Local resident Sandra Broome whose son Matthew sadly died suddenly of Meningitis aged 6 and who now campaigns for improved protection for children said:
“Meningitis is a wicked disease. It takes hold and spreads like fire through the body and many people die. Lucky survivors often are left with long term disabilities. Please choose to have the vaccination protection offered at your GP surgery. You only get one life. Make the most of it!”
Dr Tom Nutt, chief executive of Meningitis Now, said:
“We welcome Fiona Bruce’s strong stand and support in persuading GPs to encourage students to protect themselves and look forward to working with them to help spread this vital health message.”
Up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population. Over 12 per cent of all cases occur in the 14 to 24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk. Meningitis Now is working towards a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need. It does this by funding research into vaccines and prevention, raising awareness so people know what to look for and what action to take if they suspect meningitis and rebuilding futures by providing dedicated support to people living with the impact of the disease.
For more information on meningitis and the work of Meningitis Now visit www.meningitisnow.org