A new vaccine which helps prevent meningitis B is being offered to babies from today [1 September] as part of the routine childhood vaccination programme.
The vaccine is available to babies born on or after 1 July 2015 and doses are given at two months old, four months old and a booster when the child is one year old.
The Men B vaccine will help protect your baby against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which can cause meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning).
Welcoming the announcement, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “I am delighted that today the Men B vaccine is being added to the routine childhood vaccination programme in Northern Ireland. This is an historic step forward in fighting this devastating disease. I would encourage the parents of every eligible baby to protect their child with this vaccine.”
Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “Meningococcal group B bacteria are a serious cause of life-threatening infections, including meningitis and blood poisoning, and are the leading infectious killer of babies and young children in the UK, so it is an important development that we are now able to vaccinate babies against it.
“In addition to vaccinating babies born after 1 July, a temporary catch-up programme also begins today with children born between 1 May and 30 June this year also being offered the Men B vaccination. They will be offered this when they attend for their routine immunisation appointments at their GP rather than having to make any additional appointments.
“The Men B vaccine will help guard your baby against meningococcal B bacteria, so it is important that you help protect your child with this immunisation.”
As with many vaccines, the Men B vaccine might cause side effects, which are usually mild and don’t last long. More babies may develop a fever soon after this vaccination than with other vaccines, so it is recommended that you give them liquid paracetamol just after the vaccine and two further doses about four to six hours apart to reduce this risk. It is therefore important to make sure you have some infant liquid paracetamol in the house before you take your baby to be vaccinated. This is widely available in most supermarkets and all high street chemists.
Other side effects can include redness and tenderness at the place of injection, and irritability, which liquid paracetamol can also help with.
Although this vaccine will greatly reduce the chances of getting meningitis, there are some strains it doesn’t protect against, therefore it is still important to know the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia and seek medical help immediately if your child, you, or someone you know, experiences them.
Look out for any of these symptoms:
Fever, cold hands and feet
Vomiting and diarrhoea
Drowsiness, difficult to wake up
Irritability and/or confusion
Dislike of bright lights
Severe headache or muscle pains
Pale, blotchy skin with or without a rash
Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). Both diseases are very serious and, especially if not diagnosed early, they can kill.
There are five main groups of meningococcal bacteria that can cause meningitis and septicaemia – A, B, C, W and Y. The PHA also recently announced the roll out of the Men ACWY vaccination programme school leavers and those about to start university for the first time.
You can find out more about the Men AWCY vaccination programme at www.bit.ly/MenACWY
More details on immunisation of babies up to one year old, including information on the Men B vaccine programme and advice on giving liquid paracetamol, can be found at bit.ly/immunisation15