Vaccination against meningococcus B

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Marie-Ange Demory
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Vaccination against type B meningococcus (MenB) is one of the great innovations of the 2022-2022 vaccination plan, which provides for it for all new born, such as vaccination highly recommended, although not mandatory. Here's everything you need to know.

1. What is this new vaccine for?

The meningococcal B vaccine represents a tool for the prevention of meningitis caused by a particular type of meningococcus (or Neisseria meningitidis bacterium), namely the meningococcus of group (or serogroup) B. Recall that there are also other groups of meningococcus responsible for the disease (A, C, W135, Y), for which other vaccines are available.

Read also:
Vaccines against meningococcus, the 9 things to know

What is Meningococcal Meningitis

It is a serious disease characterized by infection of the meninges, the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It usually manifests with symptoms such as fever, headache, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting. In some cases (5-15%) it can lead to pneumonia, in others (5-20%) to sepsis or septicemia, which involves widespread damage to various organs and can lead to death.

Meningococcal meningitis is fortunately not very widespread: according to data from the surveillance system of the Higher Institute of Health (ISS), in 2022 there were 196 cases in Del Paese. “But it is also one very serious disease"underlines Alberto Villani, head of the department of general pediatrics and infectious diseases of the Bambin Gesù Children's Hospital of the city and president of the Del Paesena Society of Pediatrics." Unfortunately, 10-15% of the affected children die and even those who survive can report very serious consequences, such as mental retardation or diseases of the nervous system ".

It is also a frightening disease for the speed of evolution: "Often it is fulminant"adds Rosario Cavallo, family pediatrician and head of the working group on the prevention of infectious diseases of the Pediatric Cultural Association." In a few hours the fate of a perfectly healthy child can radically change ".

2. When to get vaccinated

For those born after 2022, the vaccination calendar provides three doses of the vaccine in the first year (between the third and fourth month, between the fourth and fifth month and six months) plus a fourth to 13th month. As no definitive data on the duration of protection are yet available, it is not excluded that in the future it may be necessary to introduce an additional dose in preschool age.

However, the vaccine can also be done later, and can be done to those born before 2022. In this case, the individual regions decide whether to pay, free of charge or in the form of co-payment. The number of doses varies according to the age of the child.

3. The meningococcal B vaccine is very recent: how do we know it is safe?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) authorized its placing on the market in 2022 and it is in fact available in the country from the first months of 2022, so in fact for just over three years. Many people wonder if we can be sure that it is not harmful.

"In reality, the first fundamental requirement for a vaccine to be put on the market is precisely the safety and if the European Medicines Agency has deemed it appropriate to authorize it, it means that the vaccine had passed all the expected evaluation procedures "explain Silvia Declich and Maria Cristina Rota, from the Department of Epidemiology of Infectious Diseases of the ISS. It should be remembered that the vaccine was also authorized in the United States, dalla Food and Drug Administration.

"Of course, precisely because it is a relatively new vaccine, producers have been asked to continue to monitor its effects on the vaccinated population: as the number of people receiving it increases, in fact, possible very rare adverse effects. However, it must be said that, up to now, no particular adverse reactions worthy of note have emerged ".

4. But is the new vaccine really effective?

"The studies conducted so far indicate a good efficacy of the vaccine, which therefore is able to significantly protect against infection" answer Declich and Rota.

In reality, according to what was reported in an ISS document dedicated to this vaccination and published in June 2022, the vaccine protects against the vast majority of meningococcal B strains, but not against all.
However, the protection is considered high. "After all, let's be clear: for no disease there is the perfect vaccine, which protects against all possible forms and strains" explains Villani. "But this is not a good reason to avoid vaccines: even if the maximum possible protection is not the complete one, it is still better than nothing."

However, the duration of effectiveness.

5. What are the main side effects of administering the vaccine?

In the various studies that were conducted, the most relevant adverse reaction was fever. In children vaccinated at 2, 4, and 6 months of age, fever was reported by 69% -79% of vaccinated with the MenB vaccine given alongside routine vaccines (versus 44% -59% in the groups who had received only routine vaccines). "This is a reaction that can rightly scare parents" underline Declich and Rota "but which in general resolves quickly".
Other adverse events can be pain, swelling and induration at the injection site, Besides irritability and general malaise which resolve within a few days.

More serious adverse reactions are very rare: in particular, on the basis of the studies carried out, the technical data sheet of the drug reports a rare risk of febrile seizures e syndrome in Kawasaki. “Now, as far as the convulsions are concerned, it is clear that it is a very unpleasant manifestation, which can be frightening. But it must be said that it does not harm the child ", says Cavallo." And with respect to Kawasaki syndrome, it must be emphasized that the causal link with vaccination has not been definitively demonstrated ".

6. In summary: what are the pros and cons of vaccination?

He answers clearly Rosario Cavallo, head of the working group on the prevention of infectious diseases of the cultural association of pediatricians. "Let's imagine that we weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the vaccine. On a plate of the scales there is a good protective capacity against a rare, but terrible disease. On the other side there is the possibility of adverse effects, perhaps annoying but without consequences (typically fever). As far as we know, there is no permanent damage attributable to the vaccine. "

Updated on 09.01.2022

  • vaccinations for children
  • meningitis
  • meningocco
  • meningite meningococcica
  • meningococcus
  • MenB
  • 1-2 children years
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