Starting from September 1 2015, a new vaccine to prevent meningitis will be offered to babies as part of the NHS childhood vaccination programme.
Who is the meningitis B vaccine offered to?
Meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) can affect people of any age, however, it’s most common in babies and young children.
The new vaccine will be available to babies aged 2 months alongside other routine vaccinations. They will then have their second dose at 4 months, followed by a booster at 12 months. The vaccine will protect around 90% of group-B strains circulating in the UK.
The vaccine will be given as a single injection into your baby’s thigh and can be given at the same time as other routine vaccines such as the 5-in-1 vaccine. This will save you time on going back for another appointment and less distress to your little one.
What will it protect my baby from?
The meningitis B vaccine protects your baby against an infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which not only causes meningitis, but septicaemia as well. These are serious illnesses and can be fatal, causing blood poisoning and brain damage.
Bacterial meningitis is extremely serious and any signs or symptoms should be checked and treated as a medical emergency. It’s far more serious than viral meningitis and symptoms often begin suddenly and develop quickly.
As it’s more common in babies and young children, it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms and signs, including:
- Vomiting and refusing to feed
- A high fever with cold hands and feet
- Drowsiness and becoming unresponsive/floppy
- Having a high-pitched or moaning cry
- A stiff neck and sensitive to bright lights
- Seizures or convulsions
- A bulging soft spot on their head
- Rapid breathing
- Feeling irritable and not wanting to be picked up or cuddled
- Blotchy skin and a red rash
These symptoms can occur in any order, some not even appearing. If your baby has any of these symptoms, but doesn’t have a rash, do not wait for it to appear. These are all symptoms of meningitis and if your baby develops them, you should seek medical help immediately.
If one of the symptoms is a rash, take a clear glass and press the side firmly against your baby’s skin. If the rash doesn’t fade, it’s a sign of meningococcal septicaemia.
Like any vaccine, there can be side effects, however, studies of the meningitis B vaccine show no serious safety concerns at this time.
The main side effect of the meningitis B vaccine is a fever or a high temperature, but you can reduce the risk of this by giving your baby liquid paracetamol after the vaccination.
Other common side effects can include:
- Tenderness and redness at and around the injected area
- Irritability and upset
- Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
Although rare, some babies can have an allergic reaction to the meningitis B vaccine soon after the injection. This is usually a rash or itching that can affect part of the body or all over.
In very rare cases, babies may have an anaphylactic reaction, causing breathing difficulties or collapsing. Although distressing, trained professionals will know exactly how to react and how to treat your baby. They’ll be treated immediately and babies make a complete recovery.
With these in mind you can make your decision whether you’d like your baby immunised against the new vaccine.
If you’d like any more information about meningitis and the meningitis B vaccine, the NHS are constantly updating their website with information.
At Little Shipmates, our staff are trained to spot symptoms of a range of illnesses like meningitis. You can feel reassured that your little one’s health is our priority and we’ll react promptly to any signs in which we feel they could be at risk.
If you’d like to know more about our nurseries, feel free to get in touch