I’m writing this post to pass on some of the information I received prior to Luisa having the Meningitis B vaccine and to tell you about our first hand experience. It isn’t my intention to incite debate around the issue of vaccines in general. However I am, as always, happy to hear you comments. Please feel free to express your opinion but please let’s not have any ‘mummy wars’.
From 1st September 2015 all babies born in the UK on or after 1st July are being offered the new Meningitis B vaccine. This is the first publicly funded, national programme vaccinating against Meningitis B in the world.
There is a ‘catch up’ window that allows babies born on or after 1st May 2015 to be offered the vaccine. Babies born before May 1st will not be eligible at this time. The vaccine is designed to be given at 2, 4 and 12 months alongside routine vaccinations. As Luisa was born on 12th May she was offered to be a part of the catch up scheme.
Information on the NHS website states:
The Men B vaccine will protect your baby against infection by meningococcal group B bacteria, which are responsible for more than 90% of meningococcal infections in young children.
Meningococcal infections can be very serious, causing meningitis and septicaemia. These can lead to severe brain damage, amputations and, in some cases, death.
The common side effects of the vaccine are:
- loss of appetite
- redness/tenderness to injection site
- skin rash
- irritability & tearfullness
- vomiting / diarrhea
None of these sound particularly pleasant but I’m sure you’ll agree they are all preferable to a seriously ill child. More information on the side effects is available in the patient information leaflet here.
To combat the common fever it has been recommended that a dose of liquid paracetamol be administered at the time of the vaccination and four hourly afterwards. Here is a link to the new NHS protocol that has been issued around the use of paracetamol in this way.
Although the vaccine is intended to be given alongside routine vaccinations and the NHS states that this is a safe way to do it my local surgery opted to take a different approach. The nurse was not happy to administer the MenB vaccine to Luisa alongside the others because she was slowly recovering from a pretty severe tummy bug. The nurse expressed concern that as the Men B vaccine often causes a temperature it wouldn’t be wise to give it to Luisa at this time. She worried that it would be impossible for me to tell if any change in her condition was a side effect or if she was getting ill again.
The practice nurse then went on to say that it was her professional opinion that it would be best if all Men B vaccines were given in the week following the routine immunisations. Now I’m not sure that this is in line with national policy but I followed her logic for making this decision in Luisas circumstances and was happy to agree.
Luisa had her Men B vaccination yesterday and it went as well as can be expected. She didn’t take the paracetamol for the nurse which was far from ideal. I asked if I could try to give it to her as I’ve had success in the past but apparently that’s against the protocol so I wasn’t allowed to. Madness.
Like any baby L screamed the house down when she got the actual injection but she bounced back after a cuddle and a feed. Almost immediately after the vaccine she developed a small rash on her cheeks that went away within 2 hours. I showed it to the nurse at the time who advised me to keep an eye on it and contact the surgery if I had any concerns. I took her to the appointment in her wrap as opposed to the pram so she could be close to me and feel reassured. This worked a treat as she fell asleep on the way home and woke up in much better form.
I continued to give Luisa the paracetamol as directed throughout the day. She was very clingy and easily upset at times but generally responded much better than I expected.
Ultimately I am extremely grateful that Luisa was offered this vaccine but I can’t help but feel frustrated for the parents left in the dark as to where or how they can protect their children.
Moreover my heart breaks for those affected by the disease itself.
If you’d like to know more about the disease or the vaccine, including your options if your child isnt elliegable on the NHS, I highly recommend the excellent resources provided by the Meningitis Research Foundation