MenB in Ireland

  MenB vaccination

Meningococcal Group B (MenB) is the killer bacteria which is the leading cause of meningitis and septicaemia in Ireland.

After 2 years of deliberation, the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) has finally made a positive recommendation to the Department of Health, provided the vaccine “can be made available at a cost effective price”.

Bexsero, the vaccine that protects against meningococcal Group B (MenB) has been available privately in Ireland since December 2013 and will be offered to babies for free as part of the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule from September 2016, following an announcement by the Department of Health.

MRF welcomes MenB vaccine decision for Ireland

Read our factsheet on MenB vaccine
Professor Alf Nicholson

The Irish perspective

'There was a rise in meningococcal disease in 2013. This is a very serious and potentially lethal infection that we still see in Ireland – the widespread rash, shock and features of meningitis are every parent’s nightmare. The introduction of a group B vaccine in addition to the C vaccine already in the immunisation schedule would be a major step forward and would dramatically reduce the prevalence of meningococcal disease in Ireland.'

Professor Alf Nicolson, Consultant Paediatrician, Children’s University Hospital, Temple Street Dublin

Introducing a new vaccine in Ireland

Bexsero, the vaccine that protects against Meningitis B has now received a positive recommendation from NIAC but there are still a number steps involved before it can be introduced into the Primary Childhood Immunisation Schedule.

  1. NIAC advises the Department of Health (DOH) on all matters related to vaccination. This is a committee of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland and consists of experts in a range of disciplines including infectious diseases, paediatrics and public health. They will have considered the effectiveness of the new vaccine, value for money and best practice before making their recommendation to the DOH.
  2. The DOH together with the Health Service Executives National Immunisation Office will now examine NIAC’s findings and make their own decision. If they agree to introduce the vaccine the procurement and planning processes can then begin.
It is important to note that a positive recommendation from NIAC does not automatically mean that the vaccine will be introduced. That said the Chairman of NIAC, retired Paediatrician, Dr Kevin Connolly made the point that, “up to now, any recommendation made by the Committee had been accepted by the Chief Medical Officer”.

Read more about the new vaccine

MenB - the human cost

It is thrilling to see all the hard work of our members paying dividends - but we also know from them just how devastating MenB is for individuals affected, their families and their friends.

It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the UK and Ireland, with one in 10 cases dying while others can be left with serious disabilities including the loss of limbs, hearing loss and brain damage.

We take inspiration from our members. They are determined something positive should come out of their traumatic personal stories. They want us raise aware awareness and prevent others suffering. That’s why they ask us to share their experiences in print, in film and online.

Daraine lost her legs to meningococcal septicaemia

Parliamentary activity

In June 2013, we met with TDs at Leinster House to raise awareness of meningitis and septicaemia and to ensure that tackling the diseases remains a top public health priority. In a Parliamentary Briefing, co-hosted by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and Jerry Buttimer TD, a large group of interested TDs, Senators and their representatives came together to hear expert opinions and personal stories about the disease. Many of the TDs were invited by Charity members who shared their experiences of meningitis and septicaemia with their local political representatives.

Much of the discussion in Leinster House revolved around vaccination which is one of the most important public health interventions to protect the population from serious diseases, like meningitis. Since the first meningitis vaccine was introduced in 1992 the impact of many strains of meningitis including Hib, MenC and pneumococcal have been dramatically reduced. However MenB still remains a significant public health issue and is responsible for the majority of meningococcal disease in Ireland.

MRF Research

How our research has helped

MenB is one of the major reasons the charity was formed and we have been in the forefront of campaigns to raise awareness and fund research.

Our funded research has demonstrated the burden of disease and need for a solution, identified antigens and developed typing systems and assays essential in enabling the evaluation of meningitis vaccines.

There was never going to be a quick solution to MenB. Vaccine development takes many years - initial research to final delivery can take up to 30 or 40 years costing hundreds of millions of pounds for the pharmaceutical companies alone. It involves many different bodies including charities like ourselves, alongside larger funding bodies, national reference laboratories and surveillance and governments.

This wonderful news is just the beginning of important research to enable implementation and evaluate impact of MenB vaccine.

Related MenB research projects from the current MRF research progamme

Why has it been so difficult to develop a MenB vaccine?

Unlike other bacteria which cause meningitis and speticaemia, the sugar coat of MenB bacteria does not trigger an immune response, because it looks like developing human brain cells. This means that the immune system does not recognise it as a foreign invader, and this protects it from attack. So using the sugar coat just does not work for MenB vaccine development.

The search for a MenB vaccine has had to focus on other elements of the surface of MenB bacteria but it has been very difficult to find elements which are both ‘visible’ to the immune system and present in every MenB strain. Even elements that are usually present are extremely variable, so the immune response against a vaccine made from one kind of MenB may not be capable of killing all the different MenB strains.

Read more about the new vaccine

MenB by numbers

  • 170 average cases of MenB in Ireland per year
  • 10% of survivors will have a major disability including amputations, brain damage and hearing loss
  • 33% of survivors will have after effects including psychological disorders & reduced IQ
  • 7500 people, including over 5000 babies & toddlers, took part in clinical trials for a vaccine
  • 78% in Europe predicted coverage of strains of the new MenB vaccine
  • 20 years ago the first meningitis vaccine introduced – Hib 1992

Could this be the end of meningitis?

This vaccine is a tremendous step forward and could have a major impact on MenB, but it is unlikely to prevent all cases. This is why Meningitis Research Foundation continues to fund the development of future MenB vaccines, as well as research that will tell us what impact this vaccine is having. We hope this will bring us closer to achieving a world free from meningitis and septicaemia.

Read more about the new vaccine

The journey of a new vaccine

From research to implementation. It's taken time for the new MenB vaccine to reach this stage and there's still a way to go before it's part of the immunisation programme in Ireland

Read more

Further information

For more information about MenB, our Freefone helpline is available 365 days a year in Ireland on 1800 41 33 44 email

Tel 01 819 6931
Fax 01 819 6903

Meningitis Research Foundation
63 Lower Gardiner Street
Dublin 1