Demand for the vaccine, which protects against three main diseases, after an outbreak of meningitis in British Columbia in 2010, was considered minimal
The same strain of meningitis that killed 16 Canadian children just six years ago is still sweeping through provinces and territories in the west, causing an estimated 1 million doses of a new vaccine that can prevent it to be thrown away.
The main accused in the case of epidemic meningitis in Canada was ordered by the Canadian supreme court to pay some $48m in damages. The founder of the BioBrent vaccine, Tibor Gobis, said he was “absolutely devastated and astonished” by the ruling.
He revealed how just seven months after being mandated to vaccinate against typhoid, cholera and diphtheria last year, the Ontario government ordered more than 40,000 doses of a new meningitis vaccine called COVID-19, which is only available in Canada.
Meningitis rises back in Western Canada after outbreak Read more
Meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord, is the most common bacterial infection that afflicts children and the flu is the leading cause of death among people aged five to 19. However, transmission can be passed on from one person to another through sneezing, coughing, sharing cups and droplets, or by sharing food or utensils.
In 2010, an outbreak of meningitis in British Columbia claimed the lives of 16 children and hospitalised several more. More than 20 children were still recovering after their infections, including some who were unable to walk, talk or feed themselves.
In an effort to prevent a repeat of that outbreak, Canadian provinces mandated to all children between the ages of six months and five years receive a meningitis vaccination. The demand for the vaccine was deemed to be minimal by health officials, however, by the end of January 2017, the BC Ministry of Health wrote on its website that $22m worth of meningitis vaccine vaccines had been discarded because the government couldn’t procure more.
In Alberta, the provincial health authority reported taking back 15,567 meningitis vaccine doses on 7 January. In Saskatchewan, 1,655 doses of the meningitis vaccine were brought back after high demand was reported just two weeks later.
On 7 February, the Nova Scotia health authority wrote on its website that it had disposed of 2,016 doses of meningitis vaccine, as well as another 2,257. In Manitoba, 261 doses of COVID-19 were written off in 2016, and in 2016, 164 doses were written off in Quebec. Only 24 doses of the vaccine were written off in Ontario in 2016.
Nevertheless, the justice ministry argued that much of the discarded vaccines were not protected by the tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap) component of the vaccine, making it pointless to keep them.
The response was “shocked”. Dr Jonathan Hay, CEO of the Ottawa pediatric infectious disease centre, where Gobis worked between 2006 and 2011, said: “This is a particularly frustrating one, because this is such a vulnerable population who needs the vaccine. This is appalling and unacceptable.”