Meningococcal B (MenB)

The Scottish Government has announced that all babies in Scotland born on or after 1 July 2015, will be offered the Meningococcal B (MenB) vaccine through the NHS as part of the routine childhood immunisation programme from 1 September 2015.

If your baby is due their MenB vaccine, please ask your pharmacist about paracetamol for your baby. Fever can be expected after any vaccine, but is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine immunisations at 2 and 4 months of age. This is why it is recommended that your baby gets infant paracetamol when getting these immunisations to prevent and treat fever. 

The first dose of infant paracetamol should be given just before or just after the routine immunisations. You may already have infant paracetamol at home. If you don’t you can get the paracetamol from your pharmacist before your baby’s immunisations are due. 

For more information on paracetamol for your baby after the MenB vaccine and how to space out the three doses of infant paracetamol, please read ‘Why do I need to give my baby paracetamol after the MenB vaccine?’.

Questions and answers

What is MenB?

MenB stands for meningococcal B bacteria. These bacteria can cause two serious types of infection: meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain) and septicaemia (blood poisoning). These infections are serious because they:

  • come on suddenly
  • progress very quickly
  • can leave survivors with life-long disabilities
  • can be fatal within hours.

For more details about the signs and symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia in babies, visit the Meningitis information page. 

Return to top

What are meningococcal B bacteria?

There are several types of meningococcal bacteria (A, B, C, W and Y). Most cases of meningitis and septicaemia in the UK are caused by type B (MenB), especially in babies and young children. But there’s now a vaccine to help protect against MenB.

Return to top

How does MenB spread?

Meningococcal bacteria (including MenB) live in the throats of about 10% of the population without causing any problems at all. The bacteria can spread to other people through coughing, sneezing or kissing.

Return to top

How do the MenB bacteria cause serious illness?

Sometimes the bacteria in the throat get into the bloodstream, causing septicaemia, or they can get into the fluid around the brain, causing meningitis.

MenB bacteria can cause septicaemia or meningitis alone but also both at once. 

Return to top

How common is MenB disease?

MenB is now the cause of most cases of meningococcal disease in Scotland. There were 73 cases in Scotland in 2014. For 61 of these, it was possible to tell which type of infection caused them. Of the 61 cases, 42 (69%) were caused by type B (MenB).

Although this infection is not common, it’s very important to remember that MenB is extremely serious and can lead to permanent disability and death. The meningococcal bacteria can also cause local outbreaks in nurseries, schools and universities.

Return to top

Who is most likely to get MenB disease?

MenB infection is most common in babies and young children. This is because their immune systems aren’t yet fully developed to fight off infection. The highest number of cases are in babies around 5 months of age. This is why the first immunisations are offered to babies younger than this and have to be given at 2 and 4 months of age.

Teenagers and young adults are the next group most affected by MenB because the high level of social activity at these ages (for example, at school) leads to an increase in the spread of bacteria.

Return to top

Can MenB disease be treated?

Bacterial meningitis and septicaemia need urgent, rapid treatment with antibiotics in a hospital. If the treatment starts quickly, then the illness is much less likely to be life-threatening or cause permanent disability.

Return to top

Can MenB disease be prevented?

Yes. There’s now a vaccine that helps protect babies against MenB and there are other vaccines, like MenC, that protect against some other types of meningococcal infections.

Immunising babies helps protect them when they are most at risk of developing meningococcal disease.

Return to top

When will my baby be offered the MenB vaccine?

The MenB vaccine is part of the routine childhood immunisation programme in Scotland since 1 September 2015. You will be sent an appointment to bring your child in for their routine childhood immunisations.

Babies born on or after 1 July 2015: will be offered the MenB vaccine when they come in for their other routine immunisations at 2, 4 and 12 months.

The MenB vaccine will be given at the same time as the other routine immunisations your baby will be due at these times (see the back cover of this leaflet for details). 

Return to top

When will babies in the one-off catch-up programme be offered the MenB vaccine?

There will be a one-off catch-up for babies born on or after 1 May 2015, who will be 3 or 4 months old in September, and will be coming in for their routine immunisations at that time.

  • Babies born between 1 May and 31 May 2015: will be offered the MenB vaccine at 4 and 12 months.
  • Babies born between 1 June and 30 June 2015: will be offered the MenB vaccine at 3, 4 and 12 months.
  • Babies born before 1 May 2015 will not be offered the MenB vaccine.

Return to top

Is it OK for my baby to have four vaccines at once?

Yes, it is safe to have these four vaccines at the same time (at the 2-month and 12-month appointments) and they will protect your baby from some very serious infections.

Return to top

If this is a brand new vaccine, how do we know it’s safe?

Before they are allowed to be used, all vaccines are carefully tested for safety and effectiveness. They have been through up to 10 years of trials in the laboratory and among volunteers.

The UK is the first country to introduce the MenB vaccine into its routine immunisation schedule for children. The vaccine is already offered to children in the UK with certain medical conditions and has also been used to contain outbreaks of MenB disease, where it proved to be both safe and effective. Over 1 million doses have already been given in 19 countries worldwide.

Return to top

What if I miss the appointment?

If your baby misses their routine childhood immunisation appointment, contact your GP practice, health visitor or practice nurse to rearrange another one as soon as possible.

Return to top

Does the MenB vaccine have any side effects?

As with all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects. After the MenB vaccine, side effects may include:

  • redness, swelling or tenderness where they had the injection (this will slowly disappear on its own within a few days)
  • being a bit irritable and feeding poorly
  • sleepiness
  • a temperature (fever). 

Fever (a temperature over 37.5°C) shows that a baby’s body is responding to the vaccine – although not getting a fever doesn’t mean it hasn’t worked. The level of fever will depend on the individual child and does not indicate how well the vaccine will protect your baby. Fever can be expected after any immunisation, but is more common when the MenB vaccine is given with the other routine vaccines under 1 year.This is why paracetamol is recommended.

Giving paracetamol will reduce the risk of fever, irritability and discomfort for your baby after immunisation (such as pain at the site of the injection).

It is important that a total of three doses of infant paracetamol are given to babies after each of their first two MenB immunisations to reduce the chances of fever.

Return to top

Why do I need to give my baby paracetamol after the MenB vaccine?

Giving paracetamol will reduce the risk of fever, irritability and discomfort for your baby after immunisation (such as pain at the site of the injection). Ask your pharmacist for infant paracetamol for the MenB vaccine before your baby’s immunisations are due. Please bring your baby’s ‘red book’.

It is important that a total of three doses of infant paracetamol are given to babies around the time of each of their first two MenB immunisations to reduce the chances of fever:

  • Your baby should get the first dose of infant paracetamol just before or just after the routine immunisations.
  • You should give your baby the second dose 4–6 hours after the first dose.
  • You should give your baby the third dose another 4-6 hours after the second dose. 

Age of baby 2-4 months- Dose 1 paracetemol, 1 2.5ml (60mg) dose to be given just before or just after their immunisations. Dose 2 paracetamol, 1 2.5ml (60mg) dose 4-6 hours after dose 1. Dose 3 paracetamol, 1 2.5ml (60mg) dose 4-6 hours after dose 2.

The first dose of infant paracetamol should be given just before or just after the routine immunisations. You may already have infant paracetamol at home. If you don’t, you can get the paracetamol from your pharmacist before your baby’s immunisations are due.

Fever is much less common when the MenB booster is given at 12 months of age so paracetamol is not always needed then. However, if your baby does develop a fever, is irritable, or unwell, then you can give them infant paracetamol if you wish.

Babies getting the MenB vaccine as part of the one-off catch-up this year (babies at 3 and 4 months of age who were born between 1 May and 30 June) will also need three doses of infant paracetamol to help reduce the chance of a fever developing after the vaccine. 

For more information about giving your child paracetamol following the MenB vaccine, read our What to expect after immunisation: babies and young children sheet.

Return to top

Are there any babies who shouldn’t have the immunisation?

The vaccine should not be given to babies who have had:

  • a severe reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine or any of the ingredients of the vaccine.

Also, speak to your nurse or GP about the vaccine if your baby:

  • has a bleeding disorder (for example, haemophilia, where the blood doesn’t clot properly), or
  • has had a fit that was not associated with fever.

Return to top

What if my baby is ill on the day of the appointment?

If your baby has a minor illness without a fever, such as a cold, the immunisations can be given as normal. If your baby is ill with a fever, put off the immunisation until your baby has recovered. This is to prevent your baby feeling worse than he or she already feels and gives them a chance to recover from their illness.

Return to top

Last reviewed on 07 March 2016

We use cookies to help improve this website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue. Don't show this message again