Nurses delivering a new vaccine protecting against meningitis should encourage parents to give their children paracetamol following immunisation, due to increased risk of fever.
It marks a change from previous advice warning against paracetamol use following immunisation. A study had found it could reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations.
The new MenB injection, offered from 1 September as part of the NHS Childhood Immunisation Programme, will be given to babies with other routine vaccines at two and four months.
But trials of the vaccine – Bexsero – found more than half of infants developed a temperature following administration and that paracetamol use did not interfere with its effectiveness.
Therefore, Public Health England is advising nurses to tell parents to give their children fluid paracetemol to prevent a fever developing.
At the MenB booster stage – when the child is 12 months – paracetamol is not routinely needed because at this age the baby’s risk of fever is the same as after other vaccines.
“On the bottle of paracetamol it says to give two doses. But Public Health England is saying to give three doses…so we need to be very clear”
Nurses are being warned they must advise parents that the recommended dosage of paracetamol will differ to the information provided on the drug’s packaging.
Speaking at a Royal College of Nursing conference earlier this week, the union’s professional lead for public health, Helen Donovan, noted that the guidance was now to give three doses.
“On the bottle of paracetamol – usually Calpol – it says to give two doses and if the child doesn’t respond to go and see the GP. But PHE is saying to give three doses,” she said.
“The bottle won’t change this year, so we need to be very clear [about the dosage],” she warned.
Ms Donovan advised nurses to direct parents to a new information leaflet and online PHE resources and that the information would also be in the child’s personal health record – known as the “red book”.
She noted that because parents would not usually be advised to keep supplies of paracetamol for children, GP practices would be able to order sachets to give them during the early stages of the immunisation programme.
“The good news is that giving paracetamol reduces the chances of getting fever by more than a half”
In a statement, PHE head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said: “Bexsero has a good safety record, but Public Health England is also making parents aware of an increased risk of fever when the vaccine is given alongside other immunisations, and the need to purchase infant liquid paracetamol for the two and four month appointment visits.
“It’s important that parents use paracetamol following vaccination to reduce the risk of fever,” she said. “The fever peaks around six hours after vaccination but is nearly always mild and gone within two days.”
Dr Ramsey added: “The good news is that giving paracetamol reduces the chances of getting fever by more than a half, and also reduces the risk of irritability and discomfort, such as pain at the injection site, after vaccination.”