Meningitis B in the UAE – your questions answeredFebruary 22, 2016
With rumours and concerns growing about the unavailability of the Meningitis B vaccine here in the UAE, I spoke to Kim Quick, travel medicine specialist at Health Bay PolyClinic, to find out more – and if parents should be worried
Can you tell me a bit about Meningitis in general?
There are many different strains of Meningitis. Historically according to data in the UK most cases were Meningitis C and B, although trends can change and the W strain is also causing an increasing number of cases. However due to meningitis C vaccine being given routinely now cases of Meninigitis C have reduced, but Meningitis B is responsible for 80 % of cases in the UK. Infection is highest in the under 5 year olds and peaks under the age of 12 months, with another peak at 15-19 years of age. (NHS Green Book Meningitis)
What is the current Meningitis vaccine available to UAE patients?
In Health Bay we currently give the MENACTRA vaccine. This covers the Meningitis ACWY strains and can be given from the age of 9 months. If your child has the vaccine under the age of 2 years they require two doses three months apart. From the age of 2 years they only need one dose.
Does this vary from clinic to clinic?
Yes, there are different vaccines on the market, that are given at different times and some require boosters. This will be decided by your child’s doctor.
Why is the Meningitis B vaccine absent from schedules – and does this pose a threat?
Meningitis B vaccine BEXSERO is a new vaccine only introduced to the UK in 2015, and is currently not licensed here in Dubai. As soon as it is we will be introducing it. The UAE have strict licensing laws we have to abide by and, until it is decided on by the governing bodies, we cannot introduce it.
Has there been an increase of Meningitis worldwide, or are we just more aware because of social media?
As far as I am aware there is not an increase worldwide. The bacteria responsible for Meningitis infection is carried in the nostrils of 5-11% of adults and 25 % of adolescents with no symptoms, and so far it is not known why some people are susceptible to the infection. However, we do know that it affects children under 5 more and particularly under one, hence the introduction of the Meningitis B vaccine being given from the age of 2 months in the UK.
Should parents be worried?
I think as parents we all need to be aware of Meningitis symptoms, and if you are at all concerned about your child seek medical help. Always trust your gut instinct when your child is sick. The incubation period is two to seven day and the onset varies from general malaise, fever and vomiting to headache, neck stiffness, photophobia drowsiness, confusion, joint pains and the rash, which does not blanch when you put a glass on it. Young infants do not always have the classic signs and may present with fever, vomiting and irritability and deterioration can be rapid with pallor, fast pulse and a rash. (NHS green book Meninigitis)
Should I get the Meningitis B vaccine if I’m at home in the UK?
You can ask your GP at home about getting the vaccine if you have a young child, but be aware it is a course of three vaccines given at 2 months, 4 months and 12-13 months.
Is it possible to bring it into the UAE from abroad?
All vaccines have to be carefully stored and kept at certain temperatures and it is very important not to break the cold chain so travelling with them is not recommended. Also as the vaccine is not licensed here, it may cause you a problem.