The Real Talk on Meningitis B

When it comes to our children and family’s health, we all want the best we can get.

We’re lucky to be Canadian, for so many reasons. We enjoy four seasons (yes; even winter!), we have great cultural icons in sport, literature, and theatre, and we have access to one of the best health care systems in the world. Being a parent in Canada is even better, because we have access to information about how we can do more and do better to help keep our children healthy.

When it comes to our children and family’s health, we all want the best we can get. Our families deserve every benefit modern medicine has to offer, and while Canadian children do have access to routine childhood vaccinations, the typical vaccination visit may not cover everything available.

What’s Not Included in Your Child’s Vaccine Schedule 

Most Canadian children are vaccinated, starting when they are infants. You’ve likely spoken with your doctor about the routine vaccinations offered through Canada’s public health programs, and then followed through by having your child vaccinated. Your family physician is there to answer questions and address concerns, but it’s important that parents stay informed about what is available to them in helping prevent diseases. Did you know that even if your child received a vaccine against meningococcal disease as part of their regular visit, they may still be missing coverage for strain B?

Young meningitis survivor living life to the fullest

What is Meningitis B? 

Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD), although rare, is a serious illness caused by Neisseria meningitidis bacteria with potentially serious consequences. Up to 1 in 5 survivors may experience lifelong complications including deafness, mental disabilities, or limb amputations, and up to 1 in 10 cases can be fatal. Meningitis B is a form of IMD caused by Neisseria meningitidis strain B, one of 5 main strains of meningococcal bacteria that are responsible for the majority of IMD cases in Canada. Since 2007, group B strains have caused almost 60% of invasive meningococcal disease cases in Canada. Similar to a cold or flu, meningococcal bacteria can be spread by sneezing, coughing, and if you share utensils or cups with others you could be at risk. Close contact can spread bacteria from person to person.
Anyone who has children knows that close contact activities are commonplace. Being in groups is a given, whether that means playdates, school classrooms, or extra-curricular activities. In fact, you could say that childhood itself is a “close-contact” activity!

What You Can Do About Meningitis B

You have power! You are enacting that right now just by reading and becoming informed about what meningitis B is, and what parents can do to help lessen the risk for their children. Luckily, here in Canada we have access to vaccines against meningitis B. But, vaccines against some diseases, like meningitis B, are not administered as part of the routine childhood vaccination schedule. So, even if your child received a meningococcal vaccine, they may still be missing coverage for strain B. This is why parents need to discuss meningitis B with their family doctor. Ask your doctor about vaccination options to help ensure that your child is immunized against all vaccine-preventable strains of IMD. 

When you know more, you can do more. Make sure you talk about meningitis B and vaccination options with your family doctor.

Parenting can be a real team sport, and when we help inform and support each other, we all win.

For more information on Meningitis B, check out: www.missingB.

Note: Vaccines do not provide 100% protection. Additionally, vaccines do not treat infection or prevent its complications. Adverse events or allergic reactions may occur. Ask your healthcare provider if vaccination is right for you or your family.