The meningitis ACWY (MenACWY) vaccine helps protect against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by 4 groups of meningococcal bacteria: A, C, W and Y.

Meningococcal bacteria are significant causes of meningitis and septicaemia. There are 5 main groups of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia – A, B, C, W and Y.

The MenACWY vaccine's replaced the MenC vaccine that was previously used in the routine teenage immunisation programme in S3.

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This causes pressure on the brain resulting in symptoms like:

  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • dislike of bright light
  • drowsiness
  • convulsions/fits

Meningitis can progress very rapidly and can lead to:

  • deafness
  • blindness
  • epilepsy
  • learning difficulties

It can even lead to death.

More about meningitis

What is septicaemia?

Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly. The risk of death is higher than with meningitis.

The signs of cold hands and feet, pale skin, vomiting and being very sleepy or difficult to wake can come on quickly.

More about meningitis and septicaemia

Why should I be vaccinated?

Young people have a higher risk of getting meningococcal disease. You will be offered immunisation to protect yourself as well as to protect others around you.

You may have previously had a MenC vaccine to protect you against meningococcal C infection, but this won't protect you against MenW. Having the MenACWY vaccine after getting the MenC vaccine will give you better protection against MenC infection and protect you against the other 3 meningococcal groups (A, W and Y).

Meningococcal bacteria live in the throats of about 25% of young people without causing any problems at all. The bacteria can spread to other people through coughing, sneezing or kissing. The MenACWY programme is targeting young people because of the higher risk of the bacteria spreading among young people of the same age.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

The MenACWY vaccine is routinely offered to all young people who are around 14 years of age. Young people above 14 years old who missed the opportunity to get immunised may also be offered the vaccine.

Read more about the vaccines offered to young people

When will I be immunised?

The vaccine is offered through vaccination clinics at school. Your health board will inform you about your vaccination appointment. You do not need to book an appointment to be vaccinated.

Find out how to contact your health board regarding your vaccination appointment

Sessions missed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19)

If your immunisation session was not possible during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, your health board will be in touch to rearrange your appointment.

If you have left school and want to rearrange your vaccination, contact your local health board.

If you are unsure if you have missed any vaccinations, contact your GP to check.

Home-educated young people

If you are educated at home you are also eligible for the Meningitis ACWY vaccine. Please contact your local health board to arrange your appointment.

College or University freshers

Due to the success of the MenACWY programme offered to all 14-18 year olds in Scotland during 2015/16, the majority of Scottish entrants to college or university will have already been immunised, so there isn't a need for a specific freshers programme this year in Scotland.

All young adults in Scotland aged up to 25 years who missed the opportunity to get the vaccine last year should contact their health board, who'll advise them if it’s clinically appropriate for their particular circumstances.

Unvaccinated students coming from other parts of the UK to study in Scotland should make sure they get the vaccine before they travel to Scotland as there’s no guarantee that the MenACWY vaccine will be available.

Do I need parental consent?

You and your parents or carer should discuss the information before agreeing to have the immunisation. Parental agreement is always advised, although it isn’t always necessary. If you or your parents have any questions about having the immunisation, you can talk to your practice nurse or GP if you feel you need more information about any aspect of the immunisation programme.

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the MenACWY vaccine, contact:

The vaccine

The MenACWY vaccine helps to protect against meningitis and septicaemia caused by 4 groups of meningococcal bacteria (A, C, W and Y). It's given to young people in S3 at school as an injection.

What vaccine is used?

The following vaccines are routinely used in Scotland:

How effective is the vaccine?

The MenACWY vaccine's highly effective against serious infections caused by 4 different meningococcal groups (A, C, W and Y).

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety and effectiveness by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The vaccine meets the high safety standards required for it to be used in the UK and other European countries. The vaccine has been given to millions of people worldwide.

Once they're in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be monitored by the MHRA.

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Side effects

The most common side effects of the meningitis ACWY (MenACWY) vaccine for young people are:

  • headache
  • dizziness
  • feeling sick
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • rash
  • irritibility
  • drowsiness
  • loss of appetite

If you feel unwell at any time after getting immunised, you should contact your GP. If you're worried, trust your instincts.

Immediate action required: Phone 999 for an ambulance and seek help immediately if you:

  • have a fit

If you think you're seriously ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice.

Urgent advice: Phone your GP immediately if, at any time, you:

  • have a temperature of 39°C or above
  • are worried about your health

If your GP practice is closed, phone the 111 service immediately.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Further information and other languages and formats:

British Sign Language (BSL)
English (Audio)
English (Easy Read)
English (Large Print)
Kurdish Sorani
Simplified Chinese (Mandarin)

Last updated:
06 October 2023

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