Overview

The meningitis B (MenB) vaccine helps protect against meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) caused by a group of meningococcal bacteria B.

Since September 2015, the MenB vaccine is routinely offered to all babies at 8, 16 weeks and 12 to 13 months.

Paracetamol

If your baby is due their MenB vaccine, please ask your pharmacist about paracetamol for your baby. Fever can be expected after any vaccine but is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine immunisations at 8 and 16 weeks of age. This is why it’s recommended that your baby gets infant paracetamol when getting these immunisations to prevent and treat fever.

More about giving paracetamol after the vaccine

What’s meningitis?

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This causes pressure on the brain resulting in symptoms like:

  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • dislike of bright light
  • drowsiness
  • convulsions/fits

Meningitis can progress very rapidly and can lead to:

  • deafness
  • blindness
  • epilepsy
  • learning difficulties

It can even lead to death.

More about meningitis

Charlotte’s story: meningococcal septicaemia (MenB)

Charlotte developed septicaemia (serious blood poisoning) through type B meningococcal disease (MenB) in 2010, before the MenB vaccine was introduced in the UK. Her mother Jenny talks about the impact on Charlotte and the rest of her family.

What’s septicaemia (blood poisoning)?

Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly and the risk of death is higher compared with meningitis.

The signs of cold hands and feet, pale skin, vomiting and being very sleepy or difficult to wake can come on quickly.

More about meningitis and septicaemia

Why does my baby need to get immunised against MenB?

MenB infection is most common in babies and young children. This is because their immune systems aren’t yet fully developed to fight off infection. The highest number of cases are in babies around 5 months of age. This is why the first immunisations are offered to babies younger than this and have to be given at 2 and 4 months of age.

Teenagers and young adults are the next group most affected by MenB because the high level of social activity at these ages (for example, at school) leads to an increase in the spread of bacteria.

How common is MenB disease?

MenB is now the cause of most cases of meningococcal disease in Scotland. There were 73 cases in Scotland in 2014. For 61 of these, it was possible to tell which type of infection caused them. Of the 61 cases, 42 (69%) were caused by type B (MenB).

Although this infection isn’t common, it’s very important to remember that MenB is extremely serious and can lead to permanent disability and death. The meningococcal bacteria can also cause local outbreaks in nurseries, schools and universities.

Can MenB disease be prevented?

Yes. This vaccine helps protect babies against MenB and there are other vaccines, like MenC, that protect against some other types of meningococcal infections.

Immunising babies helps protect them when they’re most at risk of developing meningococcal disease.

Meningitis and septicaemia are very serious diseases that need urgent medical treatment. Some of the symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of flu, so, if you’re in any doubt about your baby’s health, trust your instincts and get advice urgently by phoning your GP, or the 111 service if your GP is closed.

Are there any babies who shouldn’t have the immunisation?

The vaccine shouldn’t be given to babies who have had a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any of the ingredients of the vaccine.

Also, speak to your nurse or GP about the vaccine if your baby:

  • has a bleeding disorder (for example haemophilia where the blood doesn’t clot properly)
  • has had a fit that wasn’t associated with fever

Read more on Meningitis B

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