Meningococcal case at University of Auckland highlights need for students to be vaccinated

Meningitis Foundation says the recent meningococcal at University of Auckland demonstrates lack of awareness in rangatahi


The Meningitis Foundation Aotearoa New Zealand says the recent case of meningococcal disease of a student in a University of Auckland hall of residence highlights a significant lack of awareness of the risk posed by meningitis. It has called for all university students to be aware of the symptoms of the deadly illness, and to get vaccinated if they can.


The organisation is urging all eligible people – particularly those living in halls of residence in their first year of tertiary study – to seek immediate vaccination for both meningococcal B and the ACW & Y strains of the disease.


Vaccines for meningococcal B and ACW&Y are currently free for people aged 13 to 25 years who are entering into or in their first year of specified close-living situations. This includes university halls of residence and secondary school boarding houses, as well as military barracks and prisons.


The Meningitis Foundation’s chair, Gerard Rushton, commended the University of Auckland for highlighting the availability of these vaccines in subsequent communications to students, but says that there continues to be a lack of awareness of the vaccine amongst New Zealand’s most at-risk groups. He says that the funding for vaccines places a firm onus on universities to drive uptake and protect their students against meningitis.


“We have spoken to one university that is already considering implementing compulsory vaccination for first year students entering into a hall of residence, and we would urge all universities to do the same. While we are not yet clear on whether this student was vaccinated, this should be considered a wake-up call for universities.


“Universities have a duty of care to their students, and now that the vaccine is funded they should be taking every step to ensure broad awareness and uptake of vaccines across the university population,” he says.


Gerard Rushton says the organisation is calling on the Government to make access to both meningococcal vaccines, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine, free for all young people under the age of 25.


“We need to drive uptake immediately to protect our rangatahi,” says Gerard. “There are many eligible people who don’t know that they have free access to both the vaccines for ACW & Y, and for meningococcal B.”


Gerard Rushton, says every second counts with meningococcal meningitis, and the person’s condition may get worse very quickly. He says it is critical that people are aware of the symptoms.


“Trust your instincts – if you suspect meningitis, our recommendation is to seek medical help immediately. It’s much better to be safe and overly cautious. We also urge students to keep in contact with each other, especially if they are feeling unwell,” he says.


The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis in adults and children are:

  • A stiff, sore neck.
  • A sensitivity to light, or a dislike of bright lights (an early warning sign of meningitis).
  • A severe headache.
  • If the child or adult is difficult to wake, or in a drowsy and confused state.
  • A fever, sometimes accompanied by cold hands and feet.
  • Aching sore joints.
  • Vomiting – a common symptom of meningitis in both children and adults.
  • Convulsive fits or seizures is characteristic of meningitis.

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