Delicate negotiations between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Canadian Ministry of Health continue as late as this week to ensure children ages 2 to 6 receive the new meningococcal vaccine CVID-19. The CDC would like to see their children vaccinated, while Canada does not have room for the vaccine within the limited, federal stockpile.
The vaccine would be expensive and not put pressure on the stockpile, and therein lies the conflict. But there is also another question: Is it fair for the CDC and other international health officials to extend offers of the vaccine only to children in the United States, while Canada faces a shortage that health officials have not been able to overcome?
While the CDC can choose to deny importation of the vaccine to its own children and families, Canada also has the option to grant it to its citizens. Now that it has finished tests and is expected to become effective this year, the United States would be wise to support Canada’s offer so other children can be vaccinated too. A dollar and a half difference in prices is a small price to pay for parents’ and their children’s health, and is not a lot more than an additional $100 to $200 will cost children born in 2019.
More than 3,000 children and young adults from an earlier version of the vaccine have contracted meningococcal disease and lost their lives since its development. To date, 500 children have contracted the disease after receiving the new vaccine. And Canadian mothers and children are at risk for the same tragic consequences of immunization delays, in addition to many other countries and children.
Research has shown that children who have received CVID-19 have fewer adverse reactions to the vaccine, as well as better recovery rates and stronger immune systems in general than children who have not received it.
Health officials from Canada and the United States met in Ottawa, Ontario, last month to discuss the issue. A meeting was scheduled for last week but was postponed to this week, which at least one person speculated was because officials were still hammering out the details of what a treatment and vaccine for meningococcal disease would look like.
Everyone at risk deserves access to the vaccine, and delaying that access will not make those outbreaks go away. If the supply and distribution of the vaccine is handled efficiently and consistently across the United States, millions of children will not be left vulnerable to the life-threatening illness caused by meningococcal disease.
I don’t have any answer about whether or not Canada will give the vaccine. But I do have a solution that will spare the Canadian government from the financial burden of increasing the vaccine budget. Until the U.S. and Canada come to an agreement, current Centers for Disease Control family members would be the best candidates to receive CVID-19 vaccinations. That approach would help patients in both countries and would allow the young children living in the United States the vaccine without it affecting their siblings.
In the meantime, countries like Japan, Great Britain, France, China, Israel, Australia, India, South Africa, and Mexico have all shown interest in the vaccine and may pay for it themselves. Already, Quebec has agreed to allow its children to obtain the vaccine after the United States and Canada made arrangements.
States like Massachusetts, California, and California have passed a host of bills that place restrictions on health care decisions about vaccinations. Passing stringent vaccination laws and prohibiting people from getting the vaccine makes no sense, particularly given the importance of vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccines save lives. Treating outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases is an added bonus. And if the science and technology are available, every nation can participate in that cost-effective responsibility.
Dr. Jen Gunter is a medical journalist and best-selling author. She is the founder of VaccineCourt.com, a legal defense site for parents of children who receive medical treatment for vaccine-preventable diseases.