MenB (meningococcal B) vaccine
- In the UK from September 2015 babies born on or after 1 July 2015 are being offered the MenB (meningococcal group B) vaccine as part of the routine immunisation schedule and babies born on or after 1 May are being offered the vaccine as part of a one off catch-up campaign.
- In Ireland, from December 2016 babies will be offered the MenB vaccine as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule.
- The vaccine is available free of charge to people in the UK and Ireland with medical conditions that increase their risk of the disease.
- The vaccine can be purchased privately in the UK and Ireland, so people who are not currently eligible for the vaccine on the HSE or NHS can get it if they pay for it.
What Is Meningitis B?
Meningitis is an infection of the meninges, the lining around the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by different bacteria and viruses, although bacterial infections are usually more serious.
One of the bacteria which causes meningitis is called Neisseria meningitidis, also known as the meningococcus.
How do people get meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal bacteria can live at the back of the throat or in the nose. Most people, who carry these bacteria (carriers), remain well but they can spread the bacteria to others through coughing, sneezing, or kissing. Close personal contact with a carrier sometimes leads to infection. You need many hours of close personal contact to become infected as the bacteria do not survive long outside the body.
The disease is devastating if it gets into the blood or spinal fluid. There are different types of this bacteria and the most common is known as type B – what is often referred to as “meningitis B”, or MenB.
MenB most commonly affects children under the age of one, causing symptoms including fever, poor feeding, vomiting and lethargy. It can also cause septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can lead to the telltale purple rash.
In children over the age of four the disease is rare, but there’s a second peak of the disease in adolescents(although it is not as common then as it is in infants). Babies are at high risk because they do not have immune protection from antibodies – these are passed from mothers to babies which protect them for the first few months of life, but after that they are susceptible. They gradually build up immunity as they are exposed to similar bacteria in the environment. Teenagers are more likely to carry the bacteria in their throats than other age groups, which is why there is this second, smaller, peak of disease in that age group.
With early diagnosis and antibiotics, most people will make a full recovery.
Meningococcal disease is a very serious life threatening illness.
Of the people who get meningococcal disease:
- 1 in 20 will die
- 1 in 10 people who recover will have a major disability such as deafness, brain damage, learning disabilities, epilepsy or loss of fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms or legs.
Why do we need a MenB vaccine?
For decades, MenB has been the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland. Today, meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia remain the leading infectious cause of death for children under five in the UK.
Vaccines are the only way to prevent meningitis and have almost eliminated some other causes of this deadly disease. Since the first meningitis vaccine was introduced against Hib meningitis in 1992, many kinds of meningitis have been reduced or have dwindled to a mere handful of cases, including Hib, MenC and pneumococcal.
Thanks to meningitis vaccines, thousands of children are alive today who would otherwise have died or been left seriously disabled from these deadly diseases. The addition of the MenB vaccine will save even more, which is why the meningitis group have tirelessly campaigned for this vaccine to be made freely available in the UK and Ireland.
What to expect after having meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine?
After getting the vaccine, your child may have discomfort, redness or swelling around the area where the injection was given. They may be irritable and have a fever.
Of the children who are immunised:
- 1 in 2 will have a fever
- 1 in 10 will get discomfort, redness or swelling where the injection was given or will have a fever
- 1 in 100 may get a high fever
- Children usually recover from these minor side effects within a day or two
Have you vaccinated your child against MenB yet? Are you considering paying for it privately? I would love to know your thoughts!
T, A &H xxxxxx