September 2015 saw the start of a campaign to immunise all babies in the UK against deadly Meningitis B.
As a parent you are probably all too aware of Meningitis and all that is thankfully being done to prevent it. Babies already receive a pneumococcal vaccination (at two, four and 12 months) protecting them against Pneumococcal Meningitis - the second biggest cause of Bacterial Meningitis. They also receive a Meningitis C vaccine (at three and four months and then again between 12 and 13 months).
But until now there has been no protection against the very deadliest form of the disease caused by the group B meningococcus bacterium. Meningitis B affects 1200 people in the UK every year – mainly babies under one and children under five. It can cause severe brain damage, blood poisoning and, according to NHS figures, it kills one in 10 of those who contract it.
But the good news is the new Meningitis B vaccine, called Bexsero, will protect against around 90% of the meningococcal group-B bacteria strains circulating in this country today. And it is totally free.
The vaccine is recommended for babies aged two months followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. It is given during the regular childhood immunisation programme that includes the other Meningitis vaccines along with the 5-in-1 that protects against Diphtheria, Tetanus, Whooping Cough etc.
There is also a temporary catch-up programme for babies who are due their three and four month vaccinations now. This will protect them when they are most at risk from infection.
The vaccination is perfectly safe but according to NHS guidelines it is important to give your baby liquid paracetamol after it. This is because babies given Bexsero alongside their other routine vaccinations at two and four months are likely to develop a fever within the first 24 hours. The fever peaks six hours after the vaccination and usually subsides within two days. Paracetamol will help reduce it. (Your nurse will give you a leaflet about paracetamol, including a dosage guide, at your vaccination appointment.)
Other common side effects include irritability and redness and tenderness at the injection site.
If you have any concerns about your baby after vaccinations call NHS 111.