Students urged to make sure their jags are up-to-date

As thousands of students prepare to start college and university, health experts in Glasgow are urging them to check their vaccinations are up-to-date.

Students who did not receive their MMR as a child are top of the list, according to NHSGGC’s Director of Public Health. But those who have not had a vaccination against potentially deadly meningitis also need to take urgent action.

MMR and meningitis

Dr Linda de Caestecker said: “We are particularly concerned this year, as those who were babies when the completely unfounded fears around the MMR vaccine were at their highest, are now about 18-19 and potentially going to university for the first time.

“While uptake in Scotland didn’t really drop below 86%, some areas of England, particularly London were around 60-70%. This means that many students coming here could be at risk of spreading measles, mumps or rubella to unvaccinated students here too.

“Only two years ago there was a measles outbreak amongst students in Edinburgh so this, combined with a measles outbreak in Europe at the moment, means we are urging young people to find out if they got their two doses of MMR and if not get it now. This offers almost complete, life-long protection against these infections.

“Anyone in this category needs to seek advice from their GP.”

Meningitis is another infection which new students need to ensure they are protected from. A vaccination programme in schools means most students will be covered already but those who missed it need to make sure they get the Meningitis ACWY jag.

Dr de Caestecker said: “Again, uptake of the vaccine was much lower south of the border, at about 50%, compared with about 80% in Scotland so there is an increased risk with new students coming into the city.

“University life, with lots of young people coming together from different areas, parties and socialising, is the perfect breeding ground for these infections to be spread. Let’s not forget that meningitis can kill and kill quickly, so it really is vital young people check to see they are protected.”

NHSGGC advice to those who think they might be at risk is to register with a local GP and seek advice from them.

Dr Caestecker told new students to enjoy Freshers' Week but to be safe.

“Student life brings lots of changes – and choices - and we want young people to make informed decisions about all areas of their health and well-being,” she said.

Freshers message

Sex is part of student life for many young people and it’s important that they know the services which are on hand to keep them safe.

She said: “If you do decide you want to have sex, there are several ways to keep yourself safe and healthy. Condoms protect against both STIs and pregnancy. You can protect your own and your partner's sexual health by using condoms as well as your chosen method of contraception. Getting free condoms is easy; just find the nearest venue here.”

Sandyford Central is the main service located near Glasgow’s Charing Cross. It provides a wide range of sexual, reproductive and emotional health services and is open each weekday, with early evening appointments available Mondays to Thursdays. There are also smaller, more local services in other parts of the city which are open at various times throughout the week, providing many of the same services.

The best way to find details of what services are provided at Sandyford is to visit the website.  Not all of services are provided in all locations, so please contact call 0141 211 8130 for advice and to make an appointment. The line is open Mondays to Fridays from 8.30am - 4.30pm, except public holidays.

Dr de Caestecker added: “Sandyford provides sexual, reproductive and emotional health care across the Glasgow and Clyde area that is supportive, confidential, non-judgemental and sensitive to your needs. There are skilled health professionals who can discuss with you your sexual health or access to sexual health testing.”

Being out and about at parties or in the city’s bars and clubs for the first time can be exciting – but can also bring dangers.

Dr de Caestecker added: “We don’t want to stop students from having a good time and socialising with new pals. But it’s important to keep your wits about you.

“When out and about this Fresher’s Fortnight and beyond, it’s really important that friends look out for one another and stick together, making sure everyone gets home safely. Never leave your drinks unattended and don’t accept drinks from strangers; they could be spiked. It’s all about having fun but staying safe at the same time.”


First published: 4 September 2018