Los Angeles: AHF provides free meningitis vaccines to thousands

In News by AHF


Responding to the sudden death of 33-year-old West Hollywood attorney Brett Shaad last weekend from acute bacterial meningococcal meningitis, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) began offering free meningitis vaccinations this week at three Los Angeles locations in West Hollywood and Hollywood

The Foundation gave an average of over 300 vaccinations daily at the West Hollywood AHF Pharmacy at 8212 Santa Monica Boulevard, and saw similarly strong waves at the Hollywood AHF Pharmacy at 6210 W. Sunset Boulevard and the Hollywood AHF Men’s Wellness Center on Vermont Avenue (see info box below). As of noon on Friday, April 19, AHF’s outreach campaign had provided 2,896 free vaccinations to the community.

Ongoing Free Meningitis Vaccinations Available Only At:

  • AHF Hollywood Men’s Wellness Center
    1300 N. Vermont Ave., Suite 407, Los Angeles, CA , 90027
    Phone: P: (866) 339-2525
    Hours: Mon-Wed-Thu-Fri, 5:30pm to 9:00pm Saturday, 9:30am to 5:00pm

The AHF Pharmacy locations will no longer provide the vaccinations

AHF President Michael Weinstein and West Hollywood city council member John Duran jointly vocalized dismay for the inefficient response of the Los Angeles County Public Health Department during this breaking health crisis and a desire for the Department to be more forthcoming with information. As questions arose in the aftermath of Shaad’s death, the Department failed to inform anyone of two Southern California deaths from meningitis in December.

One of those deaths was 30-year-old Downtown Los Angeles resident Rjay Spoon, whose partner, 26-year-old Casey Hayden, spoke of the rapid course of his boyfriend’s illness at an AHF press conference on Tuesday, April 16th. Another Southern California death in December was a 30-year-old man from Chula Vista who was a graduate student at San Diego State University.

Information that has recently come to light: There were 12 reported cases of meningococcal meningitis in Los Angeles County in 2012 and 9 have been reported in 2013. The County did not begin collecting data about sexual orientation of meningitis cases until November 2012. Since November 2012, they have counted 4 infections among gay men, 2 of which have resulted in death. The strain that 3 out of the 4 cases among gay men in Los Angeles County carried has an 85% overlap or similarity to the strain of meningococcal meningitis that infected 13 gay men and killed 7 gay men over the past 2 years in New York, as confirmed by LA County Public Health Department Director Jonathan Fielding at a press conference on Wednesday. Analysis on the fourth case is still pending.

How many deaths will there need to be before the County will acknowledge these incidences as an outbreak?” said Michael Weinstein, President of AHF

Despite this information, Los Angeles County has not issued a health alert to its citizens—though alerts have issued by both the City of Long Beach and San Bernardino County Health Departments to their respective communities. On Wednesday, the LA County Public Health Department did announce, however, that it would be providing free vaccinations for low-income and uninsured individuals through public health clinics in response to the recent incidents—which AHF applauded, while expressing disappointment that the County stopped short of urging people — gay men in particular – to get vaccinated.

“How many deaths will there need to be before the County will acknowledge these incidences as an outbreak?” asked Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “The County has known since December and has done nothing to alert the community. The fact that these cases have been shown to be linked to the outbreak in New York should have set off alarm bells, but the L.A. County Public Health Department remains indifferent.”

Weinstein noted that in 2001, in Toronto, “2 out of 6 gay men died of meningitis and Toronto did 3,850 vaccines. In 2003, in Chicago, 3 in 6 infected gay men died from the disease and they did 14,267 vaccines. So I think we’re past that threshold now and there is really no excuse for inaction at this point.”

Check www.aidshealth.org for updates on vaccination locations and times.

Informational video: What is Meningococcal Meningitis?

Although the intended audience for this video is college students, the nature of how bacterial Meningococcal Meningitis is spread—as well as the recommendations for vaccination—apply to all high-risk groups including gay men, or men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM).

AHF’s policy on recommending that those in high-risk groups—including gay men—get vaccinated is based on epidemiologic data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a January 10th Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that states:

“On September 27, 2012, the New York City (NYC) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) alerted health-care providers and the public about 12 cases of invasive serogroup C Neisseria meningitidis disease (SCMD) occurring in NYC since August 2010 among men who have sex with men (MSM). Cases were identified through existing mandatory notifiable disease reporting and classified according to the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists case definitions. By December 31, 2012, a total of 18 cases had been identified among MSM. For 2012, the incidence rate of invasive meningococcal disease among MSM aged 18-64 years was 12.6 per 100,000 persons, compared with 0.16 among non-MSM males aged 18-64 years. MSM and non-MSM population denominators were obtained from the 2010 NYC Community Health Survey a telephone-based survey of approximately 10,000 NYC residents.”

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