A VACCINE campaign has been launched following a drop in the number of young people opting for protection against serious diseases like meningitis.

Teenage boys in particular are failing to get vaccinated, according to new figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS).

The latest statistics show a decline in vaccine uptake rates for secondary school pupils who are routinely offered protection against diphtheria, tetanus and polio (the DTP vaccine) and meningitis and septicaemia (the MenACWY vaccine). Both are offered to pupils in S3, at around 14 years of age, to complete the childhood vaccination course.

Boys were less likely to receive the DTP and MenACWY vaccines than girls and this is also true for the school-based human papillomavirus (HPV) immunisation programme, which helps to protect young people from HPV-related cancers later in life. This includes head, neck and anogenital cancers, with the most common being cervical cancer.

HPV is a common virus which usually produces no symptoms and is usually spread through sexual contact, meaning people may not even know they’re carrying the virus. All S1 pupils are eligible for the HPV vaccine in Scotland.

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High vaccination uptake rates are needed to reduce the risk of infections occurring, according to Dr Claire Cameron, PHS consultant in health protection.

“Diseases like diphtheria and tetanus were responsible for a large number of deaths, including among children, every year before vaccinations were available,” she said.

“Some of the diseases that these vaccines protect against have almost disappeared from the UK as a result of so many people being vaccinated against them over the years.

“However, cases of meningitis still occur throughout the year and young people are at an increased risk due to the contact they have with others both in and outside of school. We need to maintain high vaccination uptake rates to reduce the risk of infections occurring.”

A national campaign, Chat. Sign. Protect., which is focused on encouraging young people to talk to their parents or carers about taking up the offer of these vaccines and signing and returning their forms to school has been launched.

Consent forms are being sent out now with vaccinations taking place between January and March next year.