Overview

The meningitis B (MenB) vaccine helps protect against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by meningococcal bacteria B.

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What's meningitis?

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This causes pressure on the brain resulting in symptoms like:

  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • dislike of bright light
  • drowsiness
  • convulsions/fits

Meningitis can progress very rapidly and can lead to:

  • deafness
  • blindness
  • epilepsy
  • learning difficulties

It can even lead to death.

More about meningitis

What's septicaemia (blood poisoning)?

Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly. The risk of death is higher compared to meningitis.

The signs of cold hands and feet, pale skin, vomiting and being very sleepy or difficult to wake can come on quickly.

More about meningitis and septicaemia

Charlotte's story: meningococcal septicaemia (MenB) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lm0n7RvR8d4)

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.

How common is type B meningoccocal disease?

MenB is now the cause of most cases of meningococcal disease in Scotland. Although this infection isn't common, 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.

Why should a baby be vaccinated?

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.

This vaccine helps protect babies against MenB, There are other vaccines, like MenC, that protect against some other types of meningococcal infections.

Who is eligible for the vaccine?

The MenB vaccine is routinely offered to all babies at 8, 16 weeks, and 12 to 13 months.

When will a baby be immunised?

The MenB vaccine has been part of the routine childhood immunisation programme in Scotland since 1 September 2015. Your local health board will send you an appointment to bring your child in for their routine childhood immunisations.

Babies will be offered the MenB vaccine when they come in for their other routine immunisations at 8, 16 weeks and 12 to 13 months.

Find out how to contact your health board regarding your vaccination appointment

If a baby is due their MenB vaccine, please ask your pharmacist about paracetamol for them. 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 babies gets infant paracetamol when getting these immunisations to prevent and treat fever.

More about giving paracetamol after the vaccine

Further information and other languages and formats

More information on the meningitis B (MenB) vaccine can be found in these leaflets, available in multiple languages and formats.

Is your baby due their MenB vaccine?
Protect your child against serious diseases

If you’re unsure about anything, or have any questions about the MenB vaccine, contact:

The vaccine

The MenB vaccine is given as an injection and helps to protect babies against meningitis and septicaemia caused by meningococcal bacteria group B.

What vaccine is used?

The Bexsero Meningococcal Group B vaccine for injection in pre-filled syringe is routinely used in Scotland.

How effective is the vaccine?

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.

How many doses of the vaccine will a baby need?

A 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.

How do we know the vaccine is safe?

Before they're allowed to be used, all vaccines are carefully tested for safety and effectiveness. They've been through 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. It has been proved to be both safe and effective.

Are there any reasons a baby shouldn't have the vaccine?

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 the 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

After the vaccine

After having the vaccine there may be side effects, but these are usually mild.

Vaccines protect babies against the risk of very serious infections and should not be delayed.

Side effects

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
  • sleepiness
  • 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 the baby.

Fever can be expected after any immunisation, but is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine vaccines at 8 and 16 weeks.

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 the baby’s immunisations are due. Please bring the baby’s ‘red book’.

It's important that a total of 3 doses of infant paracetamol are given to babies when they receive both their first (8 week) and second (16 week) vaccinations.

To reduce the chances of fever you should give the baby:

  • the first dose of infant paracetamol just before or just after the routine immunisation
  • the second dose of infant paracetamol 4-6 hours after the first dose
  • the third dose of infant paracetamol another 4-6 hours after the second dose

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 the baby does develop a fever, is irritable, or unwell, then you can give them infant paracetamol if you wish.

Information about treating a fever in children

In infants who do develop a fever after vaccination, the fever tends to peak around 6 hours after vaccination and is nearly always gone completely within 2 days.

Immediate action required: Phone 999 for an ambulance and seek help immediately if:

  • the child has a fit

If you think the child is seriously ill, trust your instincts and seek urgent medical advice.

Urgent advice: Phone your GP immediately if:

  • the child has a temperature of 39°C or above
  • the child still has a fever 48 hours after vaccination
  • you are concerned about the child's health

Contact the 111 service if your GP is closed.

Where can I report suspected side effects?

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done by:

  • visiting the Yellow Card Scheme website
  • phoning the free Yellow Card hotline on 0800 731 6789 (available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)

Further information and other languages and formats

More information on the side effects of vaccinations in babies and young children can be found in this leaflet, available in multiple languages and formats:

What to expect after immunisations in babies and young children

Vaccine Safety Net Member

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Last updated:
23 September 2022

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