17/08/2017 09:30 BST | Updated 17/08/2017 09:30 BST

All Young People Need To Ensure They Receive This Life-Saving Vaccine

Today's news is covering yet another sad story about a young man whose life has been cut short by meningitis.

George Zographou, an 18-year-old student of St Brendan's College in Bristol, has passed away from a confirmed case of meningococcal B disease.

Meningitis is a devastating disease. It is often difficult to diagnose and can develop very quickly, with terrible consequences.

Vaccines are available to protect against some strains of the disease, but not all.

ACWY not?

At UK charity Meningitis Now we're campaigning for everyone who's eligible to take up their vaccine offers. We can't think of a good reason for young people not to get the ACWY vaccination, which protects them from four different strains of meningitis.

Although the ACWY vaccine would not have protected George from the B strain of meningitis he contracted, it is really important that young people access all vaccines available to them.

School leavers who will be 18 on 31 August are being offered the ACWY vaccine at their GP surgery for the final year of the 'catch up' vaccination programme.

First year university students up to the age of 25 are also eligible to receive the vaccine, which will continue to be offered routinely to year 9 students in schools.

The meningitis B vaccine is offered as part of the infant immunisation programme, but is not available on the NHS for children born before 1 May 2015. However, the vaccine is available privately.

Protect themselves

Paul Gentry, whose daughter Izzy died after contracting meningitis in 2016, and was also a student at St Brendan's College said: "I know first-hand how devastating it is to lose a child to meningitis. We must do all we can as parents, to ensure that our children are protected and safe. The ACWY vaccine is one really simple way that young people can protect themselves."

"Izzy had a bright future ahead of her, which was stolen by meningitis. Please don't let the same happen to your children, tell them about the vaccine, tell them about Izzy - protect your children."

Julia Styles, whose daughter Emily died after contracting meningitis in 2014 said: "We need to protect our children from this terrible disease."

"I know first-hand the complete destruction that engulfs a family that has been devastated by meningitis, and I wouldn't wish that on anyone."

Save a lifetime of heartache

"Please, please, please urge your children to get the ACWY vaccine - it really could save you a lifetime of heartache."

The Men ACWY vaccine has been offered to all 17 and 18-year-olds and all university entrants, aged 19-25, free on the NHS since August 2015, to combat the rise in Men W cases in adolescents. But cases continue to increase in England, from 30 in 2011/12 to 210 last year (2015/16), up from 176 the previous year.

Meanwhile uptake of the vaccine across the country remains stubbornly low at about one-third of those eligible.

Timely reminder

This is a brave step by these parents to speak out and a timely reminder to others to make sure young people get the Men ACWY vaccine.

Teenagers are the second most at risk group of contracting meningitis after babies and toddlers and up to a quarter of students carry the bacteria that can cause meningitis compared to one in ten of the general population.

Over 17 per cent of all cases of Men W occur in the 14 to 24 age group, with first year students being at particular risk.

We remain deeply concerned about the low level of vaccine uptake - just 33% last year, which remains disappointingly below the 2015 uptake rate of 38%.

It's vital that young people and their parents are not complacent about the threat of meningitis - we urge them to take up this lifesaving vaccine.

At Meningitis Now, we regularly hear heart-breaking stories of families who have lost loved ones to the disease - please don't be one of them.

Encourage your children to take up the offer of a free life-saving vaccine. After all ACWY not?

Learn the signs and symptoms

And, with vaccinations not available for all strains, learn the signs and symptoms to take that important first step in looking after yourself and your family and friends. If you suspect meningitis seek urgent medical help.

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, to download the app and to request signs and symptoms cards visit