Paediatrician Dr Yiannis Ioannou answers some key questions about the Meningitis B vaccine which has now been introduced by the health service.
Q: What is meningitis B and how serious is the illness?
Dr Ioannou: The meningococcal bacteria causes meningitis, inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and septicaemia or blood poisoning. Both are very serious conditions and potentially life threatening. The Meningitis B vaccine gives protection against these illnesses caused by the type B group of the meningococcal bacteria. The type C group is already covered in the routine immunisation schedule.
Q: The vaccine has been available privately, but is it now universally available?
Dr Ioannou: It is good news that the vaccine is now part of the routine immunisation schedule. Only infants commencing their routine immunisations at two months of age from September 2015 are being vaccinated by the health service. They will receive a second dose at four months and booster dose at 12 months of age. For a temporary period, some babies who have already had their two month routine immunisations will be eligible for a catch up dose. For those who do not qualify, the vaccine is readily available privately, including at The Portland Hospital.
Q: What are the side effects and is the vaccine safe?
Dr Ioannou: Like any vaccination it can have side effects such as fever and inflammation at the injection site or rarely allergic reactions. Side effects are closely monitored, as when any new vaccine is introduced and there are currently no reported safety concerns. GPs and paediatricians will always ask parents about the medical history of their babies who need the vaccine and advise accordingly if they are concerned.