Meningitis can be caused by a viral, fungal or bacterial infection. Viral meningitis can be very unpleasant but it is almost never life threatening and generally most people make a full recovery. However, most cases of meningitis in the UK and Ireland are caused by meningococcal bacteria. A person infected with the meningococcal bacteria may develop symptoms of meningitis septicaemia or even both. Meningitis is the inflammation of the lining around the brain and spinal cord. Septicaemia is the blood poisoning form of the disease. Together these two forms of the disease are known as meningococcal disease. Meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia can kill and remains the leading infectious cause of death in the UK for children under five.
For decades, Meningitis B has been the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland. Vaccines are the only way to prevent meningitis and have almost eliminated some other kinds of meningitis.
The first stocks of MenB vaccine are now available privately, which means that those who can pay for it will be able to get it. In the very near future, the vaccine will also be made available free of charge on the NHS to those with medical conditions that increase their risk of the disease.
The Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) estimates that in the UK, more than 9 people a day will contract meningitis or septicaemia; approximately 3,400 people each year.
In the past it has been difficult to develop a Meningitis B Vaccine because there are hundreds of different strains, which are determined by many different factors. For instance, vaccines covering just one strain of MenB (meningococcal B meningitis and septicaemia) have been used successfully in New Zealand and Cuba to control epidemics. However, neither of these vaccines would cover the majority of MenB infections in the UK and the rest of Europe.
The Meningitis B vaccine is the first vaccine licensed by the European Commission to cover many different strains of meningococcal B infection found around the world.
It is impossible to be certain about the precise effectiveness of any vaccine as the efficacy of a vaccine is determined by many factors, including; the level immunity response (immunogenicity) and how widely it protects against the many strains circulating in the country. Studies have predicted that it will cover approximately 88% of meningitis B strains found in the UK and 78% of meningitis B strains found in Europe.
The actual proportion of cases prevented will depend on other determining factors, such as; the number of vaccines administered and the level of herd immunity this vaccine provides, or whether it prevents the bacteria from being carried and passed on, how long protection lasts, and its efficacy on different age groups.
The side effects seen when the vaccine is administered are essentially the same as those commonly experienced with other vaccines. This may include; soreness, redness, swelling and/or hardness of skin at the injection site, a fever, a lack of appetite, muscle aches, irritability, sleepiness and rashes.
The new meningitis B vaccine is not a live vaccine and can be given with the other vaccines in the routine childhood schedule and also at the same time as hepatitis B and varicella vaccines. However, a fever is more common in babies when the meningitis B vaccine is given alongside other vaccines and so our doctors would ideally prefer to leave a 3 week gap between any vaccinations including the meningitis B vaccine.
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.
People who have previously had an anaphylactic reaction to any of the vaccine components should not get the vaccine.
The vaccine is not licensed for children under 8 weeks old because there is not enough information about how well the vaccine works in this age group.Children between 2-6 months of age need 4 doses. Children between 6 months and 2 years of age need 3 doses. Children over 2 and adults require 2 doses, but it has not yet been established whether a booster dose is needed to maintain protection in these age groups.
For further information relating to the Meningitis B vaccine schedule, please click the link below:Men B Vaccine Schedule
Please Note: We do our very best to minimise any upset for the child but, if you feel your child may find it difficult to keep still for the vaccine, it may be worth bringing another adult who can help you to reassure or distract them. It is very important that they do not move during the short procedure but our staff will not be able to restrain your child.
For more information relating to meningitis please visit: http://www.meningitis.org
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