Meningitis B vaccination – Questions & Answers

Which babies should have the vaccine?

The Men B vaccine will be offered to babies alongside their other routine NHS vaccinations at: 2 months of age (first dose), 4 months of age (second dose), and 12 months of age (a booster).

There will be a limited catch-up programme for babies who are due their 3 and 4 month vaccinations in September so they are also protected when they are most at risk of Men B infection.

Why is it only being offered to babies?

The Department of Health considers that the priority should be to protect infants under the age of one year who are most at risk of Men B, with numbers of cases peaking around 5 or 6 months of age.

What happens if my child is over four months of age?

If your child is over four months when the vaccine is introduced s/he will not be offered it as part of the routine NHS immunisation schedule.

The vaccine is already available on the NHS for a small number of children who are very susceptible to infection. This includes children with no spleen, or those with disorders of a part of the immune system called the complement cascade.

Can’t my baby have the vaccination when they are older?

Meningococcal disease can occur at any age but, in infants, the number of cases peak at five months of age. This is why the first vaccinations have to be given early, at two and four months of age (and a booster at 12 months). This will help to ensure that babies are protected before they are at highest risk of developing the disease.

Why does my baby need to have four vaccinations in one go as will be the case at 2 months of age?

One of the four vaccinations at 2 months (to protect against rotavirus) will be given as an oral application rather than as an injection. It is important that all vaccinations are given at an early age as this helps to ensure babies are protected before they are at highest risk of developing disease.

Studies have shown that the Men B vaccine can be given at the same time as the other routine vaccines used in the UK. So, although this may mean that your baby will require three injections at two and four months, and four injections at 12-13 months, your baby will be getting protection from all these serious infections as early as possible.

How is Meningitis B different to other strains of Meningitis?

There are 12 known strains of meningococcal bacteria, and group B (Men B) is one of these. Men B is responsible for about 90% of meningococcal infections in the UK.

Meningococcal infections tend to come in bursts. In the past 20 years between 500 and 1,700 people every year, mainly babies and young children, have suffered from Men B disease, with around 1 in 10 dying from the infection.

There are two vaccines against the other more common strains of meningococcal disease – the Men ACWY vaccine (against meningococcal strains A, C, W and Y), which is offered on the NHS to young people aged 17 – 18 (school year 13) and older university entrants (aged 19 – 25), and the Men C vaccine (against meningococcal group C) for babies.

Meningitis C disease is now rare because babies, children and teenagers have been routinely vaccinated against Men C in the UK since 1999.

How effective is this vaccine?

This vaccine is predicted to protect against the majority (approximately 90%) of Men B disease strains circulating in England. However, the full extent of protection will not be known until the vaccine is in regular use.

Will the vaccine offer total protection against meningitis to my child?

There are many different Men B strains. This vaccine offers protection against as many as possible (approximately 90% of strains circulating in England). Once it has been in use for some time, it will be possible to calculate the coverage and continue with vaccine research to improve the protection it gives.

Other vaccines exist to protect against other strains of meningococcal bacteria. However, there is no vaccine to protect against all types, so remaining vigilant is vital, and it is important to learn the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease – see www.meningitisnow.org.

Is the vaccine safe?

The Men B vaccine (Bexsero)® was licensed by the European Medial Association in January 2013 and all vaccines are extensively tested for safety and effectiveness before being licensed. This vaccine has been through ten years of trials in the laboratory and among volunteers.

Although the vaccine is not used routinely anywhere else in the world, over 500,000 doses have been given in over 35 countries worldwide. In Canada for example, the vaccine has been given to more than 45,000 children and teenagers aged two months to 20 years and there have been no concerns about the safety of the vaccine.

Why has paracetamol been advised alongside the Men B vaccine?

Fever can be expected after any vaccination, but it is more common when the Men B vaccine is given to babies with the other routine vaccines at two and four months of age. In studies when the vaccines were given to infants without paracetamol, more than half of them developed a temperature.

Giving paracetamol reduces the chances of getting fever to fewer than one in five babies, and nearly all these fevers are mild (below 39°C). Paracetamol also reduces the risk of irritability and discomfort (such as pain at the injection site) after vaccination.

The guidance is that parents are to give 2.5ml (120mg/5ml) of liquid paracetamol to their babies around the time of immunisation or as soon as possible after the vaccines are administered. Parents will also be advised to give two further doses at 4-6 hourly intervals. Nurses will provide further information to parents at the immunisation appointments.

Will the vaccination make my baby ill?

Your baby may experience fever though giving your baby liquid paracetamol will reduce the risk of fever after vaccination. Other common side-effects include irritability and redness and tenderness at the injection site. The liquid paracetamol will also help with these symptoms.

Is there any risk that the vaccination will give my baby Meningitis?

No, the vaccine cannot cause meningitis.

Are there any babies who shouldn’t have this vaccine?

Yes, speak to your doctor if your baby has:

  • had a serious allergic reaction to any vaccination
  • had a serious allergic reaction to the first MenB vaccination
  • a fever on the day of the appointment
  • a bleeding condition such as haemophilia

What symptoms should I look out for after my baby has been vaccinated?

There is no vaccine to protect against all strains of meningococcal bacteria and so remaining vigilant is vital. It is important to learn the signs and symptoms of meningococcal disease: seewww.meningitisnow.org.

When should I be concerned?

The disease develops rapidly and early symptoms can include headache, vomiting, muscle pain and fever with cold hands and feet. Be aware of all signs and symptoms and trust your instincts – don’t wait for a rash to develop before seeking urgent medical attention.