Fever warning as jab launched to protect babies from deadly meningitis B infection

Parents are being urged to stock up on paracetamol to help stave off a mild fever linked to a new meningitis jab to be given to all babies from next week

vaccine

All babies will get the vaccine from next week

From the start of September, babies will be given the new meningitis B vaccine at two months, four months and 12 to 13 months old – and it can spark a fever which lasts a couple of days.

The scheme is the first national, publicly-funded vaccination programme against the deadly infection in the world, and aims to immunise children when they are most vulnerable to the disease.

While meningitis B can affect people of any age, it is most common in babies and children under five.

Around 10 per cent of people who contract the infection die, while many others are left with permanent disabilities.

Tests suggest the new vaccine will protect against 90 per cent of the meningitis B strains circulating in the UK – potentially saving around 4,000 children from the infection each year.

The jab will be given alongside other routine vaccinations, with catch-up vaccinations available for babies due their three- and four-month injections in September.

Experts said the fever shows the body is responding to the new vaccine, called Bexsero – but said paracetamol can cut the chance of developing high temperatures by more than half, as well as reducing discomfort at the site of the injection.

fever vaccine

The fever should be mild and only last a couple of days, experts say

Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at Public Health England, said the fever would peak around six hours after the injection, but should be gone within two days.

It’s important that parents use paracetamol following vaccination to reduce the risk of fever. The fever peaks around six hours after vaccination but is nearly always mild and gone within two days.

The fever shows the baby’s body is responding to the vaccine, although the level of fever depends on the individual child and does not indicate how well the vaccine has worked – some infants may not develop a fever at all.

We know that fever in young infants may cause some parents concern, but it’s important to be aware that it will be short-lived in nearly all cases.

The vaccine will go on to help protect against meningitis B disease during a period when babies and young children are most at risk.

– DR MARY RAMSAY, PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

As of this month, another meningitis vaccine – Men ACWY – has also been offered to 17 and 18-year-olds and students starting university this year.

Dr Ramsay said parents should watch out for the following symptoms:

  • High fever with cold hands and feed
  • Vomiting
  • Refusing to feed
  • Agitation
  • Drowsiness
  • Being ‘floppy’ or unresponsive
  • Grunting or breathing rapidly
  • An unusual, high-pitched or moaning cry
  • Pale, blotchy skin
  • A red rash which does not fade when a glass is rolled over it
  • Bulging soft spot
  • Stiff neck
  • Convulsions
  • Aversion to bright lights

The vaccine will not protect against all kinds of meningitis so it is vital parents stay vigilant, she added.

Public health minister Jane Ellison welcomed the launch of the programme.

This is a landmark moment.

Men B can be truly devastating and we know the suffering it can cause to families. Now, in our country, every new baby can get this free vaccine to protect them from this terrible disease.

– JANE ELLISON, PUBLIC HEALTH MINISTER

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