The study, conducted by ComRes on behalf of the Confederation of Meningitis Organisations (CoMO), set out to study teenagers’ perceptions of vaccines and meningitis, as well as their media habits. Teenagers in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Poland were included in the web-based poll.
The survey results were mixed. There was some good news: most respondents (69%) say they were not afraid of having a vaccination and 75% say they had heard of meningitis.
Only 9% of young people say they don’t want to receive information about vaccines. Around two in five say they prefer to receive information through friends or family (43%), a talk at school or university (41%) and teachers at school or university (39%) and a fifth through a website (21%) or social media (17%).
However, there was some hesitation about vaccination and limited knowledge about how meningitis spreads.
Around one third (32%) said they thought vaccines could be dangerous. The highest level of scepticism was in France where the figure was 41% (coincidentally the same percentage of French people who told the Vaccine Confidence Project they had concerns about vaccine safety).
And, despite high awareness of meningitis, only 34% of respondents said they had been vaccinated against it. The numbers were particularly low in Sweden (10%) and Poland (12%).
When it comes to media consumption, there were few surprises. Today’s young people are connected and engaged. More than nine in ten say they browse the internet, YouTube or watch television every week (94-98%) and a majority (61%) say they have come across information or an advert for a charity in the past week.
Survey respondents say the most common ways for them to see or hear information about vaccines are through parents or guardians (56%), a doctor (47%) or schools or teachers (30%). There is, perhaps, still scope for bringing web-based vaccine information to teenagers.
Why teens matter
Teenagers and young adults are a high-risk group for meningitis. Vaccines against meningitis C, Hib and pneumococcal invasive disease are routinely given to babies in many European countries. A number of European countries also make available vaccines for teenagers against Men A, C, W and Y.
Several countries have launched vaccination campaigns for students, including the UK where a 20-year-old university student died early this year. As well as protecting adolescents and young adults, research also suggests that vaccinating teenagers against meningitis C helps to protect the wider community by reducing the spread of the disease.
The Meningitis Research Foundation, who supported the UK arm of the online survey, has been urging students to have the MenACWY vaccine from their GP. ‘Sadly, we know too many families affected by the deadly MenW strain that’s spreading among students,’ said Vinny Smith, Chief Executive of MRF. ‘By getting the vaccine, young people are not only protecting themselves, but also protecting others by stopping the spread of the bacteria.’