Vaccines are available to prevent some types of meningitis and most of these are available as part of the UK routine immunisation schedule.
However, not all types of meningitis can be prevented by these vaccines. It is important to know the signs and symptoms and seek urgent medical help if you are concerned.
Meningococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia (meningococcal disease). There are five groups - A, B, C, W and Y - which commonly cause disease. Vaccines are now available to give some protection against these groups.
- Meningococcal group B (Men B) bacteria are the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK
- A Men B vaccine is offered to babies at 2, 4 and 12 months
- The vaccine is also available privately
Our Beat it Now! campaign began in January 2013 after the Men B vaccine, Bexsero, was licensed for use in Europe. Now the vaccine is available to infants as part of the UK routine immunisation schedule.
- Prior to the introduction of a vaccine in 1999, meningococcal group C (men C) bacteria were a common cause of bacterial meningitis
- A Men C vaccine – combined with Hib – is offered to infants at 12-13 months
- Meningococcal group W (Men W) disease has historically been rare in the UK, but since 2009 cases of Men W have increased year on year, and continue to do so
- From Autumn 2015, the Men ACWY vaccine replaced the Men C vaccine for children in school. It is offered around 14 years of age
- To ensure all older pupils also received this vaccine, it was offered to 17-18 year olds in a three year ‘catch up’ programme and continues to be offered to new university entrants up to the age of 25 years
Pneumococcal bacteria can cause meningitis and septicaemia. There are over 90 strains, but not all strains cause disease.
- A pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) protects against 13 strains that commonly cause disease. It is offered to babies at 2, 4 and 12-13 months
- A pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV) is offered to anyone aged 65 years and over
- It protects against 23 strains, but only has a limited period of protection and is not effective in children under two
Pneumococcal vaccines are also recommended for adults and children who are at increased risk of pneumococcal disease, for example, those with chronic respiratory or heart disease and those with cochlear implants.
Anyone who has had invasive pneumococcal disease, including meningitis, should actively seek immunisation.
Other meningitis vaccines
- Prior to the introduction of a vaccine in 1992, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) bacteria were the most common cause of bacterial meningitis in children under five
- A combined vaccine that protects against Hib, diptheria, tetanus, polio, pertussis and hepatitis B is offered to babies at 2, 3 and 4 months
- A different combined vaccine (Hib and Men C) is offered at 12-13 months
- The MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps and rubella
- It is offered at 12-13 months and again at around 4 years
- Prior to the introduction of this vaccine, mumps was a common cause of viral meningitis in young children
- The BCG vaccine protects against tuberculosis (TB)
- The current immunisation programme in the UK targets babies, children and young people who are most at risk
- The vaccine is also offered to health workers and those who have been in contact with a TB case
Men ACWY for travel
The Men ACWY vaccine is available to people travelling to areas of the world with a high incidence of Men A, C, W or Y disease e.g. sub-Saharan Africa or Saudi Arabia during Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages.