We have had a lot of people contacting us recently saying about the Men B vaccine – and yes, this is great news!
Unfortunately, the Men B vaccine won’t protect against group B Strep (GBS) and a vaccine against GBS is probably at least 10 years away from being available. It’s easy to confuse the two – both have the letter B in their names, and both can cause meningitis!
There are approximately 3,200 cases of meningitis and meningococcal septicaemia each year in the UK. Meningitis is a condition where bacteria get into the linings of the brain and cause infection and inflammation. Meningitis can be caused by a number of different bacteria (“germs”), two of which are Men B and GBS.
Group B Strep:
- GBS is the most common cause of meningitis in babies under age 3 months, more commonly presenting as late onset (age 7-90 days of life) rather than early-onset (0-6 days) group B Strep infection.
- Most babies will recover from group B Strep meningitis, after specialised intensive care. Even with the best medical care, it is estimated that up to half of the survivors of group B Strep meningitis will suffer long-term disabilities.
- A vaccine against group B Strep is not yet available. Scientists around the world are working on a vaccine which, one day, will prevent group B Strep infections (including meningitis). Best estimates are that a group B Strep vaccine may be available in the next 10-15 years.
- Until a group B Strep vaccine becomes available, in the UK, prevention methods for early-onset group B Strep infections including meningitis, centre on identifying risk factors in the mother and offering intravenous antibiotics in labour to women whose babies are at raised risk of having a baby with group B Strep.
- Most other developed countries test the mother for group B Strep during pregnancy at 35-37 weeks, and offer antibiotics to those who are positive
- Vigilance and early treatment are vital to reducing the effects of group B Strep infection, including meningitis, in babies up to 3 months of age.
- Men B is the most common overall cause of bacterial meningitis in children in all ages, in the UK.
- Most babies will recover from MenB meningitis, again after specialised intensive care. Even with the best medical care, it is estimated that one in every ten survivors will have a major disability and one in every three survivors will have minor problems following MenB meningitis.
- Studies of the circulating MenB strains predict the vaccine will cover almost nine out of every ten cases of MenB in the UK, and almost eight out of every ten cases of Men B in Europe overall.
- A vaccine against MenB is available now.
- Men B is a new vaccine and was added to the childhood immunisation programme from 1 September 2015. Men B vaccine will offered at GP appointments alongside other routine vaccines and parents will be contacted in the usual way. The vaccine will be offered to babies aged 2 months, with a second dose at 4 months and a booster at 12 months.
- We don’t keep a definitive list of where the vaccine is available privately, though you can contact your GP surgery or look for a private vaccination clinic in your area.
Meningitis in Babies:
Meningitis in babies is a severe infection which needs urgent treatment with antibiotics and rapid admission to hospital. If treated promptly, meningitis and sepsis are less likely to become life-threatening. If a baby has meningitis, they will require specialist care and treatment in an intensive care unit.
Tragically, some babies will die as a result of their meningitis or sepsis, despite receiving the best possible treatment and care. Thankfully, however, most babies will recover from meningitis, some of the survivors will be left with severe and often permanent disabilities.
The after-effects of meningitis usually happen because of damage to various areas of the brain. The serious and disabling after-effects include hearing loss or deafness, loss of vision or blindness, epilepsy, severe acquired brain injury, speech problems. After-effects of sepsis occur as a result of damage caused to major organs of the body, including damage to the brain, kidneys, lungs, heart and skin, areas of scarring and loss of digits or limbs.
Signs & Symptoms of Meningitis in Babies:
Warning signs of meningitis and/or sepsis may include one or more of the following (any of these could develop but some may not be present at all):
- fever, which may include the hands and feet feeling cold, and/or diarrhoea;
- poor feeding, refusing feeds or vomiting;
- shrill or moaning cry or whimpering;
- dislike of being handled, fretful;
- tense or bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the head);
- involuntary body stiffening or jerking movements;
- floppy body;
- blank, staring or trance-like expression;
- abnormally drowsy, difficult to wake or withdrawn;
- altered breathing patterns;
- turns away from bright lights; and
- pale and/or blotchy skin.
If a baby shows signs consistent with meningitis or sepsis, call your doctor immediately.
If your doctor isn’t available, go straight to your nearest Paediatric Emergency Department. (N.B. Not all Hospitals have Emergency departments which can care for children and young babies)
If a baby has meningitis or sepsis, early diagnosis and treatment are vital: delay could be fatal.