Meningitis C Vaccine
Meningitis is an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Meningitis can develop very rapidly. In young children the earliest symptoms are often hard to recognise, with flu-like illness leading to vomiting, fever, irritability, a high-pitched cry and refusing feeds. Most people recover from the disease, but some are left deaf or blind and it can kill.
Red or purple bruise-like spots that do not fade under pressure may mean that septicaemia (blood poisoning) is also present. This blood infection often accompanies meningitis and progress quickly to coma and death.
Meningitis can be caused by a number of different types of viruses or bacteria. Meningoccocal group B and C are two types of bacteria that cause a high number of cases of meningitis in the UK. Group B is the commonest, but group C causes more deaths. These bacteria can cause meningitis or septicaemia or both at once.
The vaccine protects against group C meningitis and septicaemia. No one has yet been able to develop a vaccine against group B that would protect against the disease in the UK.
How common are meningitis and septicaemia?
Meningitis and septicaemia are not very common, but they are very serious.
They are the commonest cause of death among children aged one to five and the most common infectious disease causing death in children and young people.
Last year there were around 1530 cases of group C meningitis and septicaemia in the UK. Around 150 of these people died.
Who is at greatest risk?
Meningitis C is most common in babies.Young people aged 15 to 17 are the next highest risk group. The risk of dying or having complications is highest in this older group.
How is it spread?
Meningoccocal bacteria can be spread by coughing, sneezing or direct contact such as kissing.The bacteria live naturally in the throats or noses of about 1 in 10 people without causing any illness. The figure can be even higher among young people - nearly 25%.
What does it protect against?
The new vaccine protects against group C meningitis and septicaemia. The new vaccine will not protect against other causes of meningitis and septicaemia.
How is the vaccine made?
The new vaccine is made from a small part of the meningoccocal bacteria. It is made in the same way as the Hib meningitis vaccine that has been given routinely to babies since 1992. Hib vaccine is very safe and nearly wiped out Hib meningitis in this country.
How does it work?
The vaccine causes the immune system to produce antibodies to protect against group C meningoccocal disease. If an immunised person comes into contact with the real bacteria, the antibodies will provide protection.
Can you get meningitis or septicaemia from the vaccine?
No, the vaccine is not live and cannot give anyone meningitis or septicaemia.
How many doses will be needed for complete protection?
Babies aged two, three and four months will have doses with each of their DTP-Hib and polio immunisations.Babies aged over four months and up to one year will have two doses at least one month apart.Children over one year and adults need only one dose.
Is the new vaccine safe and effective?
Although this is a new vaccine, it contains ingredients that are very similar to the Hib vaccine. It has been thoroughly tested in children of all ages and provides good protection with very few side effects (for side effects see the side effects section).
60,000 doses of the vaccine have already been given around the world.The new vaccine has been tested carefully and has been proved to be safe.
Can the vaccine be given at the same time as other vaccines?
Yes, the new vaccine has been thoroughly tested and babies' and children's immune systems respond very well to this and other routine immunisations.
What are the side effects?
Some redness and swelling where the injection is given.
Toddlers(over 12 months)
One in four toddlers may have disturbed sleep.
Pre-school children(over 12 months)
About one in 20 may have swelling where the injection is given.
Children and young people(over 12 months)
About one in four may have swelling or redness where the injection is given.
Are there any reasons why the new vaccine should not be given?
There are very few medical reasons why the immunisation shouldn't be given.They include:
· a high fever on the day of the injection;
· a severe allergic reaction to a previous immunisation - please check with your doctor or nurse;
· young women who think they may be pregnant. Please check with your doctor or nurse.
The vaccine may not be fully effective in someone with a serious condition of their immune system.
Ask your doctor or nurse if you are not sure whether you should have the immunisation.
What are the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia?
The biggest problem is that most of the early symptoms of infection can be mild and similar to those you get with flu, for example:
· being sick
· feeling feverish
· pain in the back or joints
· a severe headache
· a stiff neck.
But get medical help immediately if someone has the following:
· a severe dislike of light;
· a bruise-like rash that doesn't fade under pressure (do the Glass Test - see below);
· reduced awareness which can lead to a coma.
What should you do if you think someone has meningitis or septicaemia?
If you or someone you know is ill and is getting worse and you think they might have meningitis or septicaemia, trust your instincts. Contact your GP or go to the nearest accident and emergency department immediately.
People who doctors think may have meningitis or septicaemia are given antibiotics straight away and have to stay in hospital. The earlier they are treated, the better the chances are of making a full recovery.
How to recognise meningitis or septicaemia
In babies look out for one or more of these symptoms:
· A high fever.
· A high-pitched, moaning cry.
· Difficult to wake.
· Refusal to eat.
· Pale or blotchy skin.
· Red or purple bruise-like spots that do not fade under pressure. (See the Glass Test below.)
In older children look out for one or more of these symptoms:
· A high fever.
· Stiffness in the neck - can the child kiss his or her knee?
· Drowsiness or confusion.
· A severe headache.
· A dislike of bright light.
· Red or purple bruise-like spots that do not fade under pressure.
The disease can develop very quickly - sometimes in a matter of hours. If you recognise the signs early and get help urgently you can save lives.
How to do the Glass Test
This test is very simple. If you press a clear glass firmly against the bruise-like rash, you can see if the rash fades. If the rash doesn't fade contact your doctor immediately.
Please remember that everyone will be called for immunisation when their turn comes. You will be contacted with an appointment either from your doctor or from the school or college.
If you receive an appointment and want more information about meningitis or septicaemia, speak to your GP, practice nurse or school nurse.
Or, you can call the Health Information Service (freefone) on 0800 66 55 44 weekdays between 10am and 4pm. The Health Information Service is a national freephone network providing confidential information about health-related issues and local services.
This information has been sourced from Health Promotion England.