A recent short communication in the Public Health journal documented how a carefully constructed vaccine campaign targeting first-year university students facilitated a dramatic increase in meningococcal vaccine coverage.
Over time, a stable increase in the prevalence of Group W invasive meningococcal disease has been observed in England since the year 2009. This increase in the number of cases was witnessed among all age groups and geographical areas; it can be explained by the quick spread of a virulent strain of meningitis. To curb this gradual rise in cases, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) suggested that the meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY) vaccine be included as part of the national immunization program in England. Research has indicated that the majority of meningococcal carriers are adolescents, thus it has been hypothesized that vaccinating this age group is likely to indirectly protect others.
To curb this gradual increase in meningococcal cases, investigators executed a study that involved creating a MenACWY vaccine campaign that targeted first-year University of Nottingham students. Meningococcal vaccination was offered to students while they were interviewed by health care professionals during school registration. Their vaccination history was entered into a registration database. Healthcare professionals provided the vaccine free of charge to students who stated they had not received the MenACWY.
7049 first-year students were initially registered with the UNHS (University of Nottingham Health Services); of those, 2160 had already received the vaccine before recruitment. Thus, 4889 were eligible to receive the MenACWY vaccine, and of those, only 2809 (57%) accepted the free vaccination offer. An overall MenACWY vaccine coverage improved significantly from 31% to 71%.
The sharp rise in MenACWY vaccine coverage indicates that this university campaign was successful in addressing its primary research objective. However, a sizable proportion of vaccine naive students (43%) still rejected vaccination due to the perceptions that the vaccine was unnecessary or not beneficial to them. Similarly constructed vaccine campaigns should be introduced in other higher education institutions.
Written By: Melissa Booker