Bexsero is the vaccine available against meningitis b, which worries and worries parents so much. Is it necessary to put it? What adverse reactions does it present? We reveal everything to you.
If you have a small child, it is quite likely that you have already heard about it. Or that you have even approached a nearby pharmacy in order to buy it. And, it is also possible that you have been surprised that when you went to look for it, it was not available. Indeed, we are talking about Bexsero, the only vaccine available so far against Meningicoco B (or, in other words, the bacteria that cause meningitis B).
However, despite the shortage problems in recent months, even with waiting lists of dozens of people in many pharmacies, to the day of writing this article that you read (dated April 26, 2017), the developer company of the vaccine has indicated that it has become available again.
In any case, it is a question, as you will surely know by now, of a vaccine that is not included in the vaccination calendar of the Spanish public health system, contrary to what does happen -for example- with the vaccine against meningitis C.
What is Bexsero? What is it for?
Although Bexsero is purely its commercial name, we are facing a vaccine whose main function is to achieve immunization against meningicoco b, a type of bacteria that, as we will know in a future section, can cause a generalized infection (sepsis) or infections of the meninges.
What is meningicoc?
Meningicoccus is a microbe, specifically a bacterium that causes rare but serious infections, such as both meningitis and sepsis (infection of the blood).
This microbe usually lives for seasons in the throat and in the nose of healthy adolescents and young people, practically without causing any damage, being considered as asymptomatic carriers.
However, the most common cases occur in young children and adolescents. These infections can leave serious sequelae, or lead to death if it is not treated early.
What is meningitis B? Is it really that serious?
The meningitis type B, also known medically with the name of Meningococcal meningitis is a severe type of bacterial infection that affects the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
That is, it causes a rapid-onset inflammation of the different layers that cover both the brain and the spinal cord (meninges), as well as the space that contains the fluid located between the meninges themselves.
As we see it, it is a medical emergency that must be treated with antibiotics as soon as possible, since these tend to be effective when administered early, which helps to reduce inflammation of the brain.
In fact, severity occurs when sepsis occurs rapidly and extensively, not allowing time to apply the appropriate antibiotic treatment.
As many experts say, type B meningitis is actually quite rare. However, it is true that the alarm has spread in recent months at the rate of the 48 cases that have been registered in Spain over the last year, according to data provided.
It is a bacterial infection that especially affects children under 5 years of age and people over 70 years of age, with a mortality rate of around 10%.
What is there to know about the Bexsero vaccine?
Who should be vaccinated against meningicoc b?
The Association of Pediatrics, through the Vaccine Advisory Committee, indicates that the vaccine can be given at any age from 2 months of age.
What are your adverse reactions?
This is an issue that worries many parents. Although it is true that this vaccine can cause an adverse reaction that is perhaps slightly greater compared to other vaccines, the associated reactions are actually mild.
In fact, the most common are: pain and redness at the injection site, fever and irritability.
How it is administered:
The vaccine is injected intramuscularly. In children up to 1 and 2 years of age, it is preferable to administer it to the thigh, and to the shoulder from 2 years of age.
How many doses are necessary?
The number of doses to be administered depends directly on the age at which the vaccination is started:
- Infants 2 to 5 months: 3 doses of primary immunization and 1 booster dose between 12 and 15 months.
- Non-vaccinated infants 6-11 months: 2 primary immunization doses and 1 booster dose.
- Unvaccinated infants 12 to 23 months: 2 primary immunization doses and 1 booster dose.
- Children 2 to 10 years: 2 doses (no booster dose required).
- Children from 11 years of age, adolescents and adults: 2 doses (no booster dose required).
It is effective?
The overall protection of the vaccine ranges around 70%, while its efficacy in protecting against three of the four variants of meningicoc is more than 90%.
Is it advisable to give the child the Bexsero vaccine?
On the one hand, we find the opinion of the Ministry of Health, which considers that the Bexsero vaccine is actually recommended for a few specific cases: when there is asplenia (that is, lack of spleen or it does not work properly), in case of rare complications, when an outbreak occurs, or in people who handle the bacteria.
That is to say, they consider that being a recently released vaccine it could present unexpected adverse effects, and that until 2013 (when the drug appeared) meningitis b was not a health problem, nor in fact it is today.
On the other hand, the Spanish Association of Pediatrics is one of the main defenders of this vaccine, since although it is indeed a rare infection, the vaccine has not had significant adverse effects, and it would help to avoid the complications of meningitis b.
So what do you do as a parent?
You have probably been surprised that some pediatrician advises you to vaccinate against meningitis B, and yet another specialist gives you the opposite opinion.
In this case, as we can see, the decision to vaccinate the child or not is up to each mother and father, since we are faced with a type of vaccination that is optional. “Although it could be said that statistically it is almost impossible for our son to ever get B meningitis, however it is not impossible, and the disease is serious.”