Meningitis B Vaccine

Becky writes about the new Meningitis B vaccine with an introduction of her involvement with the Meningitis Now charity.
“Last year I had the huge privilege of being invited to Bagshott Park near Windsor, home of the Earl and Countess of Wessex for a charity lunch in support of Meningitis Now. The Countess of Wessex, the charity’s royal patron, hosted the luncheon with wonderful warmth and generosity – also proving that our mothers were all right to say ‘don’t slouch at the table, you never know when you might have lunch with royalty!’

It was an inspirational event (at an incredibly beautiful home!) with inspirational business women such as Liz Earle and Caroline Gardner all brainstorming ideas to raise the profile of the charity’s campaign to have the Meningitis B vaccine approved by Government and added to the national vaccine programme – the first country in Europe to do so.

So it was with huge celebration when the news broke last week that the tireless work of the charity had finally borne fruit – promising a safer future for our children.”


After many years of research, development and campaigning the government has just announced the incredible news that all babies in the UK will be given a potentially life-saving vaccine against meningitis B from the autumn, as part of a national immunisation programme.

We asked Meningitis Now a little more about it:

– What is Meningitis B? 

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacterium called the meningococcus. There are five main groups (A, B, C, W and Y) that cause disease around the world. In the UK, group B causes the majority of disease, accounting for around 80% of cases. Meningococcal disease is a life-threatening infection. It is a term used to describe two major illnesses – meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning). These can occur on their own or more commonly, both together

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

– What are the symptoms and what should I do if I see them? 

The early signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia can be similar to ‘flu and include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and muscle pain.

The more specific signs and symptoms include fever with cold hands and feet, drowsiness, confusion, pale blotchy skin, stiff neck, dislike of bright lights and a rash which Symptoms card1doesn’t fade under pressure.

In babies, symptoms can also include being floppy and unresponsive, dislike of being handled, rapid breathing, an unusual, moaning cry and a bulging fontanelle (soft spot on the top of the head).

If you suspect someone may be ill with meningitis or septicaemia, trust your instincts and get immediate medical help.

Advice from charity Meningitis Now is not to wait for a rash to develop – this may be a late sign and may not appear at all.

– Who is most at risk? 

Meningitis can strike anyone at any age, but most cases occur in babies and young children. The next most vulnerable group is teenagers and young people.

– How is it contracted and is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of my child getting it? 

Around 10% of the population carry the meningococcal bacteria in the back of their throats at any given time. This is healthy carriage, and should help develop immunity.

The bacteria are passed from person to person by coughing, sneezing and intimate kissing.

Occasionally the bacteria defeat the body’s defences and cause infection.The bacteria break through the lining at the back of the throat and pass into the bloodstream. They can travel in the bloodstream to infect the meninges, causing meningitis, or while in the bloodstream they can cause septicaemia

Ensure you are up to date with the available vaccines, learn the signs and symptoms, trust your instincts as you know your child best and seek prompt medical attention if you suspect meningitis.

– How many cases are reported in the UK each year?

There are an estimated 3,200 cases of bacterial meningitis and septicaemia each year in the UK, which includes about 1,500 reported cases of meningococcal disease. Most people will make a good recovery, but it can rapidly result in death or leave people with severe after-effects

  • Around 7% of cases will result in death
  • Of those who survive, 15% can be left with severe and disabling after-effects such as loss of hearing and sight, brain damage and, where septicaemia has occurred, damage to major organs, loss of digits and limbs.

– How effective is this new vaccine? 

There are many different MenB strains. JCVI figures say the vaccine is effective against 88% of these. This vaccine has been developed to offer protection against as many as possible. Once it has been in use for some time, it will be possible to calculate the coverage and continue with vaccine research to improve the protection it gives. Other vaccines exist to protect against other types of meningitis and septicaemia, however, there is no vaccine to protect against all types, so remaining vigilant is vital. Learn the signs and symptoms today.

– When is it available from and who will it be given to?

It is being made available from 1 September in England and Scotland with Wales and Northern Ireland expected to follow suit later this autumn. All babies aged two months will be offered the vaccine, followed by a second dose at four months and a booster at 12 months. There will also be a one-off limited catch-up programme for infants who are due their three and four month vaccinations in September to protect them in time for when they are most at risk of MenB infection.

– Is it something we will have to request or will parents receive a letter from the GP? 

Men B vaccine will be offered at GP appointments alongside other routine vaccines and parents will be contacted in the usual way.

– What is Meningitis Now’s next major campaign? 

We will continue to call for the adolescent carriage trial study recommended by the JCVI over a year ago to be undertaken. This study forms a critical part in the assessment and introduction of the MenB vaccine to the second biggest at risk group. Our Beat it Now! campaign continues and we’re determined to extend the availability of the Men B vaccine to other at-risk groups

We will continue to seek to influence the joint working group of the PHE, DoH, JCVI and NICE in how they evaluate meningitis vaccines from a cost effective perspective and to ensure that all costs, including the ongoing cost of treatment and support post infection, are taken into account. We need to ensure the learning from the challenges of assessing MenB are understood.

– Where can I go for more information? 

Visit the Meningitis Now website at Download the free signs and symptoms apps from the site or request a purse-sized card. Alternatively call the free helpline on 0808 80 10 388.

Download the factsheet from the website


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3 Responses to “Meningitis B Vaccine”

  1. Sacha Langton-Gilks

    FANTASTIC to see your support for Meningitis Now and to help raise awareness. I have also worked with them & try to raise awareness of their campaign alongside The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign for which I’m the Lead Champion. My son DD died of a cancerous brain tumour during London 2012 and had I been aware of the symptoms would have spared him an immense amount of extra surgery and treatment. The risk of a child developing meningitis or a brain tumour is the same but no one has any idea of the symptoms of brain tumours. Text SMART to 81400 to get the free symptoms app on your smartphone. The Royal College of GPs and Royal College of Paediatric Child Health have both been involved in setting up the campaign, which launched in 2011. Thank you.


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