The meningitis B (MenB) vaccine helps protect against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by a group of meningococcal bacteria B.
Since September 2015, the MenB vaccine is routinely offered to all babies at 8, 16 weeks and 12 to 13 months.
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If your baby is due their MenB vaccine, please ask your pharmacist about paracetamol for your baby. Fever can be expected after any vaccine but is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine immunisations at 8 and 16 weeks of age. This is why it's recommended that your baby gets infant paracetamol when getting these immunisations to prevent and treat fever.
Charlotte developed septicaemia (serious blood poisoning) through type B meningococcal disease (MenB) in 2010, before the MenB vaccine was introduced in the UK. Her mother Jenny talks about the impact on Charlotte and the rest of her family.
What's septicaemia (blood poisoning)?
Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly and the risk of death is higher compared with meningitis.
The signs of cold hands and feet, pale skin, vomiting and being very sleepy or difficult to wake can come on quickly.
Why does my baby need to get immunised against MenB?
MenB infection is most common in babies and young children. This is because their immune systems aren’t yet fully developed to fight off infection. The highest number of cases are in babies around 5 months of age. This is why the first immunisations are offered to babies younger than this and have to be given at 2 and 4 months of age.
Teenagers and young adults are the next group most affected by MenB because the high level of social activity at these ages (for example, at school) leads to an increase in the spread of bacteria.
How common is MenB disease?
MenB is now the cause of most cases of meningococcal disease in Scotland. There were 73 cases in Scotland in 2014. For 61 of these, it was possible to tell which type of infection caused them. Of the 61 cases, 42 (69%) were caused by type B (MenB).
Although this infection isn't common, it’s very important to remember that MenB is extremely serious and can lead to permanent disability and death. The meningococcal bacteria can also cause local outbreaks in nurseries, schools and universities.
Can MenB disease be prevented?
Yes. This vaccine helps protect babies against MenB and there are other vaccines, like MenC, that protect against some other types of meningococcal infections.
Immunising babies helps protect them when they're most at risk of developing meningococcal disease.
Meningitis and septicaemia are very serious diseases that need urgent medical treatment. Some of the symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of flu, so, if you’re in any doubt about your baby’s health, trust your instincts and get advice urgently by phoning your GP, or the 111 service if your GP is closed.
Who's eligible for the vaccine?
The MenB vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme in Scotland since 1 September 2015. You'll be sent an appointment to bring your child in for their routine childhood immunisations.
Babies born on or after 1 July 2015 will be offered the MenB vaccine when they come in for their other routine immunisations at 8, 16 weeks and 12 to 13 months.
The MenB vaccine will be given at the same time as the other routine immunisations your baby will be due at these times.
Are there any babies who shouldn’t have the immunisation?
The vaccine shouldn't be given to babies who have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any of the ingredients of the vaccine.
Also, speak to your nurse or GP about the vaccine if your baby:
has a bleeding disorder (for example haemophilia where the blood doesn’t clot properly)
has had a fit that wasn't associated with fever
The MenB vaccine's given as an injection and helps to protect your baby against meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal bacteria group B. Your baby will need 3 doses of the MenB vaccine, one at 8 weeks, one at 16 weeks and one booster dose at 12 to 13 months.
The MenB vaccine is highly effective against serious infections caused by meningococcal group B bacteria. It's also thought that it's likely to provide some protection against other strains of meningococcal disease, including MenC.
If this is a brand new vaccine, how do we know it’s safe?
Before they're allowed to be used, all vaccines are carefully tested for safety and effectiveness. They've been through up to 10 years of trials in the laboratory and among volunteers.
The UK is the first country to introduce the MenB vaccine into its routine immunisation schedule for children. The vaccine is already offered to children in the UK with certain medical conditions and has also been used to contain outbreaks of MenB disease, where it proved to be both safe and effective. Over 1 million doses have already been given in 19 countries worldwide.
Where and when to get it
Your baby will get the MenB vaccination at your GP practice or health centre.
When's my baby going to be immunised?
Your baby will be offered the MenB vaccine at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and a booster dose at 12 to 13 months. Your local NHS Health Board will contact you to let you know about their arrangements for your baby's routine childhood immunisations.
Most practices and health centres run special immunisation baby clinics. If you can’t get to the clinic, contact the practice or health centre to make another appointment.
Improving how vaccines are offered in Scotland
To improve how vaccinations are offered to you or your child, you may notice:
you're invited to a new location to receive your immunisations instead of your GP practice
the health professional giving your immunisations changes
You'll still receive clear information about the location, date and time of your appointment.
After the vaccine
After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.
After the MenB vaccine, side effects may include:
redness, swelling or tenderness where they had the injection (this will slowly disappear on its own within a few days)
being a bit irritable and feeding poorly
a temperature (fever)
Fever (a temperature over 37.5°C) shows that a baby’s body's responding to the vaccine – although not getting a fever doesn’t mean it hasn’t worked. The level of fever will depend on the individual child and doesn't indicate how well the vaccine will protect your baby.
Fever can be expected after any immunisation, but is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine vaccines under 1 year. This is why paracetamol's recommended.
Why do I need to give my baby paracetamol after the MenB vaccine?
Giving paracetamol will reduce the risk of fever, irritability and discomfort for your baby after immunisation (such as pain at the site of the injection). Ask your pharmacist for infant paracetamol for the MenB vaccine before your baby’s immunisations are due. Please bring your baby’s ‘red book’.
It's important that a total of 3 doses of infant paracetamol are given to babies around the time of each of their first 2 MenB immunisations at 8 and 16 weeks.
To reduce the chances of fever:
your baby should get the first dose of infant paracetamol just before or just after the routine immunisations
you should give your baby the second dose 4-6 hours after the first dose
you should give your baby the third dose another 4-6 hours after the second dose
You may already have infant paracetamol at home. If you don’t, you can get the paracetamol from your pharmacist before your baby’s immunisations are due.
Fever is much less common when the MenB booster is given between 12 and 13 months of age so paracetamol isn't always needed then. However, if your baby does develop a fever, is irritable, or unwell, then you can give them infant paracetamol if you wish.
If you're worried about your child, trust your instincts. Speak to your GP or phone the 111 service.
Phone your GP immediately if, at any time, your child has a temperature of 39°C or above, or has a fit. If your GP practice is closed, phone the 111 service immediately.