Meningitis B vaccination programme gets underway

EDITORIAL IMAGE
EDITORIAL IMAGE

A new vaccine which helps prevent Meningitis B is being offered to babies from today, September 1, 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 May 1 and June 30 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.

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

Convulsions/seizures

Stiff neck.

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 www.bit.ly/offtoagoodstart