Scotland politics

Babies in Scotland to be get meningitis B vaccine from September

Baby getting vaccinated

The meningitis B vaccine will be introduced to the routine childhood vaccination programme in Scotland from 1 September, it has been announced.

Scotland is now one of the few nations in the world to offer the vaccination to all infants.

The vaccination will be given in three doses at two months, four months and a year.

Babies aged two months when the vaccine is introduced will be eligible.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has also advised that when the programme starts there should be a one-off, catch-up programme for infants aged three months and four months who will be attending for their routine vaccinations.

Additionally, in response to an increase in the number of cases of meningitis W, a MenACWY vaccine will be introduced to replace the MenC vaccine used in the adolescents and university freshers vaccination programmes.

From 1 August that vaccine will be offered to students under the age of 25 attending university for the first time this autumn, along with a catch-up programme for all 14 to 18-year-olds.

'Devastating effects'

Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "These two new vaccination programmes will offer families in Scotland extra peace of mind.

"We're delighted to be one of the first countries in the world to introduce a nationwide MenB vaccination programme to help tackle the effects of this disease, which can be devastating for children and their families.

"The Scottish government has been consistent in its support for the introduction of this vaccine and today's announcement underlines our commitment to ensuring the health and wellbeing of our children."

She added: "Around 1,200 people - mainly babies and children - get meningitis B each year in the UK, and around one in 10 die from the infection.

"I am also very pleased to see the expedited launch of the MenW vaccine prevention programme for teenagers. This vaccine also protects against MenA, MenC and MenY, making sure young people are protected at such an important time in their academic lives."

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption A meningitis rash does not disappear when a glass is pressed on it

Meningitis B

Meningitis B is a bacterial infection that particularly affects children under the age of one.

It commonly affects children under five years of age, and is also common among teenagers aged 15 to 19.

The vaccination will be given in three doses at two months, four months and 12 months, with all babies in Scotland aged two months at the point of introduction being eligible.

There are about 1,870 cases of the infection each year in the UK.

Symptoms include a high fever with cold hands and feet, confusion, vomiting and headaches.

Most children will make a full recovery with early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment, although it is fatal in one in 10 cases.

About one in four of those who survive is left with long-term problems such as amputation, deafness, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

Sue Davie, chief executive of Meningitis Now, said: "Today's announcement is a tribute to the tireless and selfless efforts of our supporters, for many of whom sadly these vaccines come too late. We are ready to support the introductions in any way we can."

Mary Millar, Scotland manager of Meningitis Research Foundation, said: "These two programmes are the culmination of years of research which will spare countless families the trauma of seeing a loved one die or left seriously disabled by meningitis and septicaemia."

'Fighting for life'

Gemma Lessells' son Matthew contracted meningitis B in 2010 when he was 13 months old.

The Inverkeithing mother said: "He was quiet and had a temperature at 4pm. He started being sick at 6pm and by 10pm he was in hospital fighting for his life.

"He had cannulas everywhere, they were taking his blood pressure every 15 minutes. His heart rate was 210 and his temperature on admission was 40.9.

"We were incredibly lucky - Matthew survived, though has delayed expressive speech and suffered night terrors following his hospital stay.

"We are also in the process of discussing possible behavioural side effects with his health visitor, but other than that we have a gorgeous healthy happy boy with a laugh that lights up a room

"I would not want any parent or child to go through what we did, and welcome news of the implementation of these two new vaccines in Scotland."

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