The Meningitis B vaccine will soon be available for some post-secondary students in Nova Scotia who are living in residence.
The province has announced it will cover the $300 cost for those deemed at high risk of contracting the potentially fatal disease.
Starting on Monday, people aged 25 and under who are heading to post-secondary and living in dorms for the first time will be able to start booking appointments to get both doses. First-time military recruits living in barracks are also eligible.
“There’s substantive and sufficient evidence that this group and these very particular settings are at increased risk,” says Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang. “So it makes just make sense that we now add them to that existing high-risk policy.”
In Nova Scotia, the deaths of three university students have been linked to MenB since 2021.
“It has been tragic to see young people pass away as the result of this illness,” says Nova Scotia Liberal Leader Zach Churchill. “The fact that this is now going to be available to them as a protection measure — we think is a really good thing.”
“I hope that this is a precedent for other provinces in Canada,” says Norrie Matthews. “He’s happy to see Nova Scotia is the second in Canada to make the move.”
Last month, Prince Edward Island announced it would cover the vaccine for post-secondary students living in residence.
Matthews lost his son Kai to Meningitis B in 2021 and has been calling on the province to add the vaccine to its routine publicly-funded program.
The 19-year-old had just finished his first year of Kinesiology at Acadia University when he passed away from the disease.
The Matthews family founded “BforKai” to bring awareness to the serious and life-threatening illness, along with ways to prevent it.
“We’re proud that Kai’s legacy has had a role in helping to make sure that other families are protected against this, and this hopefully won’t happen again,” says Matthews. “It’s a preventable disease. So we need to prevent it.”
He adds although the province’s move to fund the vaccine for at-risk youth is a great step, there is room to expand the program to help pediatric children.
“They have the highest prevalence of invasive meningococcal disease in Canada,” explains Matthews. “So there are other age groups that I think deserve to be looked at for funding and for help as well.”
Strang recommends eligible youth get vaccinated before they start living in shared spaces in September.
“You must wait at least four weeks between the first and second dose,” he says. “People need to start booking early to ensure that they have full protection.”
A letter will be sent out to Grade 12 students next week giving them further details about the vaccine and its rollout.