Hib/MenC vaccine

The Hib/MenC vaccine helps protect your baby against two of the causes of meningitis and septicaemia.

Your child will need a dose of the combined Hib/MenC vaccine between 12 and 13 months of age to boost their protection against Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and helps protect against meningococcal C (MenC) infections. This vaccine will help protect your child through early childhood.

The Hib/MenC vaccine does not protect against meningitis and septicaemia caused by serogroup B meningococcal infection, other bacteria or viruses such as pneumococcal or mumps.

Questions and answers:

What is Hib?

Hib is an infection caused by Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria. It can lead to a number of major illnesses such as blood poisoning (septicaemia), pneumonia and meningitis. The Hib vaccine only helps protect your child against the type of meningitis caused by the Haemophilus influenzae type b bacteria – it does not protect against any other type of meningitis.

The illnesses caused by Hib can kill if they are not treated quickly. Before the Hib vaccine was introduced, there were about 800 cases of Hib in young children every year.

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What is a booster immunisation?

Booster immunisations are given to increase the protection already given by a primary immunisation. Sometimes the protection offered by a primary immunisation begins to wear off after a time. A booster dose extends the period of protection later into life.

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Are there any possible side effects?

Your baby may have redness, swelling or tenderness where they had the injection. About half of all the babies who have the vaccine may become irritable, and about 1 in 20 could get a mild fever.

If you think your baby has had any other reaction to the vaccine and you are concerned about it, talk to your doctor, practice nurse or health visitor. Parents and carers can also report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme. This can be done online by visiting www.yellowcard.gov.uk or by calling the free Yellow Card hotline on 0808 100 3352 (available Monday to Friday – 10 am to 2 pm).

Read more about the common side effects of immunisations that might occur in babies and young children up to five years of age.

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What is meningitis?

Meningitis is inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. This causes pressure on the brain resulting in symptoms such as severe headache, stiff neck, dislike of bright light, drowsiness and convulsions/fits. Meningitis can progress very rapidly and can lead to deafness, blindness, epilepsy and learning difficulties. It can even lead to death.

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What is septicaemia?

Septicaemia (blood poisoning) is a serious, life-threatening infection that gets worse very quickly and the risk of death is higher compared with meningitis. The signs of cold hands and feet, pale skin, vomiting and being very sleepy or difficult to wake can come on quickly. 

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What are the main symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia in babies?

In babies, the main symptoms of meningitis and septicaemia may include:

  • refusing feeds, vomiting
  • feeling drowsy and not responding to you,or being difficult to wake
  • being floppy and having no energy, or being stiff with jerky movements
  • being irritable when picked up
  • a high-pitched moaning cry
  • grunting
  • rapid or unusual patterns of breathing
  • a fever
  • cold hands and/or feet
  • skin that is pale, blotchy or turning blue
  • shivering
  • spots or a rash that does not fade under pressure – do the glass test by pressing a clear glass against the rash to see if it fades and loses colour – if it doesn’t change, get medical help straight away
  • convulsions/seizures
  • a bulging fontanelle (the soft patch on the top of the newborn baby’s head)
  • a stiff neck
  • disliking bright lights.

Some of the symptoms are very similar to the symptoms of flu, so, if you’re in any doubt about your baby’s health, trust your instincts and get advice urgently by contacting your GP or calling NHS 24 free on 111.

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What are the main symptoms of meningitis in older children, adolescents and adults?

Symptoms in older children, adolescents and adults may include:

  • a stiff neck (check that they can kiss their knees or touch their forehead with their knees)
  • a very bad headache
  • dislike of bright lights
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • feeling drowsy, less responsive and confused
  • a rash (see the glass test).

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What are the main symptoms of septicaemia in older children, adolescents and adults?

Symptoms in older children, adolescents and adults may include:

  • sleepiness, less responsive, vacant or confused
  • severe aches and pains in the arms, legs and joints
  • very cold hands and feet
  • shivering
  • rapid breathing
  • red or purple spots that do not fade under pressure (do the glass test)
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • diarrhoea and stomach cramps.

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What is the glass test?

Press the side of a clear drinking glass firmly against the rash so you can see if the rash fades and loses colour under pressure (see image below). If it doesn’t change colour, contact your doctor immediately. The spots and rash are more difficult to see on darker skin, so check paler areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and the area around the eye. Any spots or rash may fade at first, so to be sure – keep checking.

Be aware, however, that the rash does not always appear.

Glass test

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Last reviewed on 06 July 2017

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