A bereaved mother is pleading with parents to protect their children from a deadly strain of meningitis following the death of her daughter just as she was due to start at a south coast university.
A bereaved mother is pleading with parents to protect their children from a deadly strain of meningitis following the death of her daughter.
The MenACWY vaccine, which protects against four different strains of the meningococcal bacteria that cause meningitis and septicaemia - Men A, C, W and Y - is offered through the NHS to teenagers and a catch-up vaccination is offered to new university students.
The vaccine was introduced in August 2015 to stop a rise in MenW.
Since then, pupils in years nine to 12 have been offered the vaccine at school while older teenagers can get the immunisation from their GP practice.
But the charity Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) said uptake among the older group has been "low". Last year, just a third (33%) of school-leavers had taken up the vaccine.
Now beavered mother Sharon Sandell, from Woodford Green in London, is imploring all parents with a son or daughter who is leaving school this year to book their child an appointment at their GP practice to get the vaccination.
"We lost our beautiful daughter Lauren to meningococcal W meningitis and septicaemia in October," the 47-year-old said.
"She was just 18 years old. I only heard about the MenACWY vaccine the week that Lauren was due to start at university in Bournemouth.
"Our GP surgery said that they did not have enough of the vaccine so Lauren was told she'd have to wait as they needed two weeks' notice to get it.
"Lauren went to university without the jab and she had only been there a week and a half before she became ill.
"Her symptoms were nothing that anyone would run to A&E with: headache, vomiting and some aches and pains.
"Just 48 hours after the first symptoms, she was extremely ill with life-threatening septicaemia.
"The disease took our daughter's life very quickly.
"I'm encouraging all parents with a son or daughter in year 13 this year to contact their GP and book their free MenACWY vaccine now to prevent this happening to them too."
Vinny Smith, chief executive of MRF, said: "Sadly, we know there are too many families and individuals being affected by this MenW strain of meningitis.
"We're grateful to Sharon for having the courage to share Lauren's story to raise awareness and we appreciate the fundraising efforts of all her family and friends. This will help us continue our work.
"We need all GPs to be playing their part in flagging patients that are eligible for the MenACWY vaccine and we have just launched an online eligibility checker and awareness campaign to make it easier for everyone to be sure who needs to get it.
"Uptake of the vaccine in people leaving school in the past two years has been low. Anyone aged 17 to 20 should use our eligibility checker and book an appointment with their GP to get the vaccine if they need it.
"In addition to this age group, anyone who is under 25 and starting university for the first time this year should also be able to get the vaccine.
"Despite low uptake of the vaccine, evidence shows that it is working well and preventing cases in the age groups who are being directly vaccinated. If everyone who is entitled to the free vaccine has it, this will not only protect them but over a few years, it will also help protect the rest of the population through reduced transmission of the bacteria to others.