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What is meningitis?

What is meningitis?

Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It can be caused by viral or bacterial infections. It is a very serious illness that can quickly become life-threatening or eve fatal. It is most common in children under 5 and teenagers aged 15-19. Prompt recognition of the signs can save lives. Headache, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, a dislike of bright lights and a rash that does not disappear under a glass are signs of meningitis. Babies may refuse feeds, cry a lot, look pale or mottled and have a stiff body or be limp and unresponsive. Go straight to hospital if you suspect your child may have symptoms of meningitis.

What is meningitis B?

It is a type of bacterial meningitis caused by bacteria called meningococci. There are lots of different strains of the bacteria, each one given a letter to name them. Meningococci group B are responsible for around 80% of bacterial meningitis infections in the UK. Meningitis B vaccination can prevent these infections. Other vaccines are available to protect against other strains of meningococcal bacteria.

Who can have meningitis B vaccination?

Meningitis B vaccine is given to babies as part of routine childhood immunisations using Bexsero® vaccine. Alongside other vaccines, Bexsero® is given at 2 months, 4 months and 12-13 months. Children with immune problems may need further booster doses as they get older. Other meningococcal vaccines are given to older children and teenagers. Trumenba® meningitis B vaccine can be given to adults and children aged 10 years or over.

Will MenB vaccine stop my child from getting meningitis?

No vaccine is 100% effective and people who have been vaccinated may still get the disease. Meningitis can be caused by different micro-organisms but meningitis B is responsible for more than 80% of cases in the UK. MenB vaccine helps your body make antibodies that can kill the bacteria. Studies have shown that around 90% of group B meningococcal bacteria are susceptible to killing by vaccine-induced antibodies. In clinical trials, between 80% and 100% of subjects produced enough antibodies to kill the bacteria.

Can the vaccine cause meningitis?

MenB vaccine does not contain any live organisms so it cannot cause the disease. It contains different bacterial proteins that are recognised by the immune system which then makes antibodies.

Should I give my baby a painkiller after their vaccine?

The injection itself can be painful, but a painkiller won’t help. However, there is a high chance your baby may develop a fever after vaccination and you are advised to give 2.5ml (60mg) of paracetamol suspension 120mg/5ml as soon as possible. You can give two further doses every 4-6 hours. Ibuprofen is not as effective as paracetamol in this case and is not recommended.


1. Public Health England (PHE); Meningococcal: the green book, chapter 22; Published 20 March 2013, Last updated 20 September 2016;

2. NHS: Health A–Z: Meningitis; Last updated 08 March 2019;

3. Summary of medicinal Product Characteristics (SmPC), Bexsero Meningococcal Group B vaccine for injection in pre-filled syringe; GlaxoSmithKline UK, updated 01-Jan-2021. Accessed online via The electronic Medicines Compendium;

4. Summary of medicinal Product Characteristics (SmPC), Trumenba suspension for injection in pre-filled syringe, Meningococcal group B vaccine (recombinant, adsorbed); Pfizer Limited, updated May 2021. Accessed online via The electronic Medicines Compendium;

5. NHS: Health A–Z: MenB vaccine overview; Last updated 30 June 2021;