The new Meningitis B jab is being offered to all newborns in England and Scotland from September, with Wales and Northern Ireland following shortly after. The new jab will help protect babies against deadly meningitis B – with tests suggesting that it will offer protection against around 90% of the meningococcal group-B bacteria strains in the UK. At the moment, babies are already routinely inoculated against meningitis A pneumococcal meningitis and Hib (Haemophilus influenza type B) bacterial meningitis but, until now, there was no vaccine for the B strain of the disease.
The public health minister, Jane Ellison called the introduction of the immunisation a landmark moment. “Meningitis B can be truly devastating and we know the suffering it can cause to families,” she said. “Now, in our country, every new baby can get this free vaccine to protect them from this terrible disease.”
About 1,870 people contract meningitis B every year and one in 10 dies. Babies under 1 year are the age group most at risk, with cases peaking at around 5 or 6 months of age.
The bacterial infection causes inflammations of the brain and spinal cord, and leaves 1 in 4 of those who contract it with life-altering problems, including brain damage and limb loss. Signs and symptoms of meningitis can vary, and meningitis charity Meningitis Now urge parents not to wait for a rash to appear before seeking professional advice.
Will my baby be offered the new jab?
In September 2015 all UK babies born on or after 1 July 2015 will be offered the vaccine alongside their other routine immunisations. Babies born on or after 1 May will be offered the vaccine as part of a one off catch-up. Babies and children who were born before 1 May will not be offered the vaccine on the NHS.
When will they be immunised?
The Men B vaccine will be given to babies at 2, 4 and 12 months old, and will be administered alongside the existing NHS Childhood Vaccination Schedule.
Is the vaccine safe?
Yes, but as with all drugs, the vaccine can cause side effects including soreness/redness/swelling or hardness of skin at the injection site, fever, lack of appetite, muscle aches, irritability, sleepiness and rashes.
Will my baby get a fever?
Fever is more common in babies when the Men B jab is given alongside other vaccines. But, taking paracetamol after getting vaccinated (or at the same time) reduces the likelihood and severity of fever without affecting the immune response to any of the vaccines.
How can I get my child vaccinated if she’s not eligible on the NHS?
Start by asking your own GP for the vaccine, as if they can provide it, this is likely to be the cheapest option. If they can’t, they may be able to arrange it via another surgery on private prescription. You can also get the vaccine from a travel vaccination clinic in your area, or a private GP practice. As a guideline, the NHS list price of the vaccine is £75 per dose excluding VAT – a child will need up to 3 doses.