Calls are increasing in Nova Scotia for a provincially funded meningitis B vaccine.
This comes after three deaths tied to the infection occurred in the last 18 months. An outbreak was also declared at Shirreff Hall, a residence of Dalhousie University in Halifax.
After contracting meningitis B in 2019, Logan Gothreau is sharing his story to help raise awareness.
“It was the scariest and most painful experience of my life,” he says.
Today he has no problem lifting heavy weights and racing around the gym, but he says when he came down with the infection in 2019, his health quickly deteriorated.
Gothreau can recall the time vividly. He says on his 19th birthday on Oct. 17, 2019, he went out for lunch and spent the day working at a gym. It was the next day he felt ill.
“When I woke up, I felt a little sick, nothing crazy,” Gothreau says. “It was just like a cold, but as the day went on it progressively got worse, and it was worse and worse and worse by the hour, so by 4 p.m., I was very sick and I couldn’t get out of bed.”
After multiple hospital visits and several tests, including a spinal tap, he was told he had meningitis B. Gothreau says he was scared when he heard the diagnosis as he lost his close friend Rylee Sears in Grade 9 to the infection. Gothreau now has a tattoo in Sears’ honour on his ankle.
“It sounds morbid, but it sounded like my life was over at that point,” Gothreau recalls. It wasn’t, but it was a long road to recovery. “It was about a year to a year and a half after it was confirmed that I had meningitis before I was back to normal,” he says.
Gothreau explains he’s now sharing his story to raise awareness and to call for the meningitis B vaccine to be provincially funded — and he’s not alone.
In a recent interview with Global News, Norrie Matthews, who lost his son Kai to meningitis in 2021, renewed his call to the premier to add the MenB vaccine to the province’s routine publicly-funded program.
“I think it’s time now, and there’s an opportunity now for Premier Houston to step up, to take the lead, and to demonstrate that Nova Scotia can be the first province in Canada to offer a publicly-funded vaccine clinic for healthy students,” Matthews says.
The Matthews family are founders of the B for Kai organization, which was created to raise awareness about the B strain and to increase vaccination rates.
As it now stands, the province’s routine immunization program includes coverage for vaccines that protect against four strains of Meningococcal Disease (A, C, W, and Y). They’re rolled out in infancy and through the school-based program.
For Nova Scotians who want to get the meningitis B vaccine, and it’s not covered through private insurance, you’ll have to pay about $300.
In a statement, Health Minister Michelle Thompson says her heart goes out to those who have lost a family member to the disease.
When it comes to the vaccine, she says the province relies on guidance from the National Advisory Committee of Immunization.
“Vaccines against meningococcal B disease are provided through the publicly funded program to individuals with high-risk conditions and in response to an individual case, or more rarely, in response to an outbreak,” the statement says.
“As a Province, we rely on guidance from the National Advisory Committee of Immunization (NACI). At this time, NACI does not recommend offering this vaccine to the general population as there is limited evidence to support its effectiveness.”
Those guidelines are outdated, according to Matthews. In an email to our newsroom, he says the province needs to take a proactive approach.
“I think it’s time for Nova Scotia to look at the local epidemiology in our province and make decisions about funding the vaccine based on a broader lens than that which is offered by the outdated NACI guidelines,” Matthews says.
After having gone through what he did, Gothreau agrees.
“We don’t want to have one more person die in order for this to be more important,” he says. “Imagine if it was your son, imagine if it was your brother, imagine if it was your husband. You would not want them to go through that experience.”