As a new meningitis vaccination programme for infants continues, parents are being urged to know how to spot symptoms of the disease.

The NHS MenB vaccination programme for infants was introduced last September, and will mean that by 2017 all children under the age of 2 in the UK will have been offered the vaccine.

The vaccine is currently available for free to children born from 1 May, 2015 onwards, with the first dose administered from 2 months of age. All parents of eligible children will be contacted and notified on how to get the vaccine, usually through their GP.

Parents of older children not eligible for the free MenB programme may be able to get the vaccine from private providers, but prices vary and global demand means availability is currently limited - with many private providers suspending the vaccination service temporarily due to a shortage of vaccines.

The supply of vaccines for the NHS programme, however, is not affected.

The first symptoms of meningitis are usually fever, vomiting, headache and feeling unwell. Limb pain, pale skin and cold hands and feet often appear before the tell tale rash, stiff neck, a dislike of bright lights and confusion, though the latter two are less common in young children.

Other signs in babies include a tense or bulging soft spot on their head, a refusal to feed, being irritable when picked up, a high pitched or moaning cry and either a stiff body with jerky movements or else floppy and lifeless. Babies less than three months old often don't get a fever.

People who are seriously worried about someone who is ill should not wait for a rash to appear but get medical help immediately. If they have got a rash or spots, use the "Tumbler Test" and press a clear glass tumbler firmly against the rash. If the marks are clearly visible through the glass, please seek medical help immediately.

Remember, a seriously ill person needs medical help even if there are only a few spots, a rash or no rash at all.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "The council's Public Health team has received a number of calls from parents regarding the new meningitis B infant vaccination programme.

"I'd like to reassure parents that, if their child was born on or after 1 May, 2015, they will be offered the vaccine free of charge through the NHS. If your child is not eligible, there may be a chance you can get the vaccine privately, though at present we are not aware of any providers in Wolverhampton offering this service.

"Meningitis is a very serious disease and can kill in hours, so it's vitally important that all parents make themselves aware of the symptoms they should look out for. Someone who has meningitis could become seriously ill very quickly, and parents should get medical help immediately if they suspect their child has the condition."

People can get advice and support from The Meningitis Research Foundation Type=links;Linkid=7017;Title=website;Target=_blank; or by telephone on 0808 800 3344.

  • released: Tuesday 1 March, 2016