Should My Child Be Immunised for Meningococcal B Infection (Bexsero)?
There has been a lot of discussion around Meningococcal B vaccination in view of recent small outbreaks in NSW and other states between 2022 and 2023. So, what do parents and teenagers need to know?
What is meningococcal disease?
Meningococcal disease is a rare, but serious illness that most commonly presents with meningitis (inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord) and/or septicaemia (blood poisoning).
It is caused by meningococcal bacteria that can spread from person-to-person through close, prolonged or intimate contact. It can affect all age groups but is more common in young children, adolescents and young adults.
So how do we best prevent meningococcal disease?
Vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of meningococcal infection. Free meningococcal strains ACWY vaccine is available for infants at 12 months of age and students in Year 10 of secondary school. Catch-up vaccination is also available for young people under the age of 20 years currently.
If there is a vaccination at 12 months old, why do I need to consider Bexsero?
Bexsero is the vaccine which covers for Meningococcal B. The meningococcal B strain is the most common strain found in patients who have contracted meningococcal disease.
Who is at risk of meningococcal disease?
Some people are at higher risk of getting meningococcal disease. Some groups for whom meningococcal vaccine is recommended include:
– all infants and young children, particularly those aged less than 2 years
– adolescents aged 15 to 19 years
– people who have close household contact with those who have meningococcal
disease and who have not been immunised
Is the Meningococcal B Vaccine funded through the National Immunisation Programme (NIP)?
Meningococcal serogroup B vaccine is available free under the NIP for:
– Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island children aged 2 months (from 6 weeks), 4 months, 6 months (certain medical conditions) and 12 months
– people with asplenia and hyposplenia, complement deficiency and those receiving treatment with eculizumab.
Other people who are strongly recommended to have meningococcal ACWY and B vaccines but are not funded under the NIP, and wish to protect themselves or their family can purchase by private prescription from their immunisation provider. This can be claimed through private health insurance.
How many doses of Meningococcal B Vaccine (Bexsero) are required? When can I get this done?
For children under the age of 12 months old, a total of 3 doses is recommended with the 3rd dose being a booster dose given after the age of 12 months old. The interval between the 1st and 2nd dose is 2 months. The earliest age for the 1st dose is from 4 months old onwards.
For children above the age of 12 months old, a total of 2 doses is recommended with an interval of 2 months between doses.
Can I just get the one dose of Bexsero?
This is not recommended as a single dose of vaccination will confer limited protection against meningococcal disease.
What are the side effects I need to be aware of?
As with all vaccines, side-effects can occur and are usually short-lived (24 – 48 hours). The most common side-effects include tenderness and swelling at the injection site, fever, irritability, vomiting and/or diarrhoea. Bexsero is not a live vaccine and does not cause meningitis.
I have heard that Paracetamol needs to be administered when having Bexsero?
High rates of fever have been reported in infants receiving Bexsero, especially when given with their other routine immunisations.
Use of paracetamol has been advised for infants half hour prior to the appointment or during the appointment, to prevent fever. You will be given instructions on the use of paracetamol at your appointment.
If you have any further queries or questions about Bexsero or vaccination against Meningococcal disease, please feel free to make an appointment with a GP at Dural Family Medical Practice to discuss this further.
This article was written by Dr Kalpana Loganath (MbChB, DCH, CWH, Clin Dip Pall Med, FRACGP). Dr Kalpana has years of experience as a General Practitioner with a special interest in women’s health and paediatrics as well as complex and chronic disease. She has additional training with a graduate diploma in Child Health. Dr Loganath bulk bills all children under 12, and Concession/Pension Card Holders.