According to CandadaFreePress.com, “Bacterial Meningitis is an infection of brain and spinal fluid that can cause death, sepsis or gangrene within 24 hours, and “Men C” and “Men B” are its most prevalent strains.”
A ‘C’ vaccine has been used successfully in Canada for the past 10 years, but researchers spent years and billions of dollars before they were able to, just recently, develop a Men B vaccine. And in fact, it’s the strain that is considered most dangerous to children — according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization, Men B represents 54 percent of all meningococcal meningitis cases in Canada, and is the primary cause of the disease in infants and adolescents. In fact, Men B causes over 80 percent of cases in infants and almost 70 percent in adolescents.
Now that the Men B vaccine is awaiting approval from Health Canada, the next step will be to get it funded – this is the main challenge for all new vaccines. Recent reports from the European Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID as its called) conference this summer showed the new Men B vaccine requires four doses in infants and two doses in adolescents, making it potentially expensive and requiring considerable commitment for provincial governments to fund and organize.
Meanwhile, 10 percent of of individuals who contract meningitis die quick, horrible deaths, and 10-15 percent of survivors suffer horrific side effects, from amputations to hearing loss to severe cognitive problems — which affects them their entire life.
Zachary missed half his senior year of high school as he recuperated, undergoing many months of rehabilitation. For a while, says Conners, it was uncertain whether he would ever walk again.
As for her own two small children (ages 2 and 5), Conners says there isn’t currently a routine meningitis vaccine for that age group where she lives in Toronto. But if there were, she says, “I would give it to them.”
“I know it can be controversial but I am really absolutely pro-vaccine,” she says. “Contagious diseases can be prevented. If there’s a way of preventing meningitis we should absolutely be preventing it.”
Conners continues, “Even if a child doesn’t die from meningitis, the side effects can just be incredible. For a while, when we knew Zachary was going to recover, it was uncertain whether he’d ever walk again. His nervous system was so damaged. It’s a terrible, terrible illness.”
UPDATE 9/27/11: We just heard about a young teen in British Columbia, Canada, who recently contracted and died suddenly from bacterial meningitis. Brandon Kurtz,15, was vaccinated against one strain of meninigits, but not the Men B strain that killed him. You can read about his story, and hear a message from his family, here.