October 27, 2021
Bexsero, a vaccine which offers protection from the life-threatening meningococcal B infection, has been licensed in the UAE recently and is now readily available. Meningococcal disease can cause serious bacterial septicaemia (blood infection) and/or meningitis. 1-2 people out of every 10 who survive meningococcal disease have long-term complications. Young children (under 5 years) and adolescents are most at risk as the bacteria spreads by close contact. The vaccine offers our children protection against this potentially lethal infection.
Bexsero is approved from the age of 2 months and is given as 2 doses. Children under the age of 2 years will need a booster dose a few months later.
I offer Bexsero to all my patients. In particular, it is highly recommended for those who frequently travel to home countries where meningococcal B vaccination is part of the national immunisation schedule. The UK and Australia are examples where Bexsero is given to all babies from the age of 2 months. I also encourage adolescents to be vaccinated before going to college/universities especially with shared accommodation. Children with certain medical conditions are at increased risk of meningococcal disease (e.g. immunosuppressed, spleen removal), and they should be vaccinated too.
Meningitis is inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, it can be caused by a variety of organisms, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Meningococcal disease is a relatively uncommon but serious bacterial infection caused by the bacteria Neiserria meningitidis. An affected person can have mild symptoms which rapidly progress into fever, neck pain, rash, and death. So meningococcal disease can cause meningitis or whole-body sepsis with infection in the bloodstream.
We have limited surveillance data available in the UAE. The predominant strains in the Middle East are meningococcal A, W and Y. There have been outbreaks in Saudi Arabia associated with the Hajj pilgrimage over the years. Meningococcal B serotype is emerging more frequently in parts of Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Australasia. As we know, the UAE is a hub for travelers, so we expect changes in disease serotypes over the years.
We have been offering a vaccine (Menactra or Nimenrix) for meningococcal A, C, W and Y strains for many years in the UAE. It is not mandatory on the DHA schedule, but many parents opt to give it to their children. Most parents are unaware that there is another vaccine for meningococcal B so we want to raise awareness and offer them the Bexsero vaccine to complete the meningococcal disease protection for their children.