1. ITV Report

Bereaved parents from Cumbria urge students to get meningitis vaccine before university

Pauline and Tony Bell lost their daughter to the disease in 2006 Photo: ITV Border

Two bereaved parents from Cumbria are sharing their experience of meningitis and septicaemia to encourage students to get vaccinated before university.

Pauline and Tony Bell, from Egremont, Cumbria, lost their daughter to the disease when she was 16 years old.

They hope to encourage all eligible young people to book an appointment for a free Men ACWY vaccine.

Their call for action comes during national Meningitis Awareness Week.

Pauline said:

Our daughter Lisa sadly died from meningitis and septicaemia when she was just 16 in March 2006.

Lisa's symptoms started with a headache and she died within 48 hours.

Many people know that meningitis affects babies but so many don’t realise the danger to teenagers too.

We have been supporting Meningitis Research Foundation since our tragedy to ensure other families do not have to go through the heartbreak we did and still do every day.

It’s so important for all young people to get the MenACWY vaccine that is available now to protect against some types of meningitis and septicaemia.

It’s equally important for everyone to know the symptoms so they can seek medical help fast.”

– Pauline Bell
Lisa died when she was just 16 in March 2006 Credit: ITV Border

Teenagers are a high risk age group for meningitis and septicaemia.

University freshers are particularly at risk because they mix with other students, who can be unknowingly carrying the bacteria.

The Men ACWY vaccine is a single injection that protects against four different strains of bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia.

The Men ACWY vaccination programme was introduced in 2015 following a rapid rise in a new and deadly type of meningitis.

Only 33% of eligible school leavers had the vaccine in 2016.

Young people are advised to check their eligibility and get the vaccination whether starting university or not.

Ideally students should be vaccinated more than two weeks before starting university.

However, they can still get the Men ACWY vaccine from a GP once they start university in most of the UK.

Meningitis and septicaemia can develop suddenly and progress rapidly.

Early symptoms include:

  • headache
  • vomiting
  • limb pain
  • fever
  • cold hands and feet

The Meningitis Research Foundation said:

We’re very grateful to Pauline and Tony for raising awareness during Meningitis Awareness Week.

By getting the free meningitis vaccine, young people are not only protecting themselves from a potentially deadly disease, but also protecting others by stopping the spread.

It’s important to remember that this vaccine doesn’t prevent all types of meningitis, so it’s vital for students away from home to watch out for their friends if they’re unwell. If they have meningitis it can be like a very bad hangover that quickly gets worse. It can be deadly, so act fast and get medical help.”

– Vinny Smith, Chief Executive, MRF