AIDS Healthcare Foundation to offer free meningitis vaccines starting Monday (MAP)

Beginning Monday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will offer meningitis vaccines at three Los Angeles-area locations.
Beginning Monday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will offer meningitis vaccines at three Los Angeles-area locations.
Mike Simons/Getty Images

Beginning Monday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation will offer meningitis vaccines at three Los Angeles-area locations after the death of a West Hollywood attorney who had recently been exposed to the disease.

Brent Shaad, 33, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Saturday evening after his family gave permission to remove him from life support.

Shaad had appeared healthy less than a week ago, according to West Hollywood Councilman John Duran.

On Monday, he began feeling ill, according to an AP report. He went to an emergency room for care on Wednesday, but his condition deteriorated rapidly. He slipped into a coma on Thursday, and doctors declared him brain dead Friday.

Shaad had attended the White Party in Palm Springs the weekend of March 30th and 31st and was a member of the Equinox gym in West Hollywood, and people who may have had contact with him should consider being checked, said Duran.

The free meningitis vaccines are available from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at AHF pharmacies on Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards and the AHF Hollywood Men's Wellness Center on Vermont Avenue, said AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein.

“While many people, including many gay men, may not have had an exposure or consider themselves at risk, we know that there is a tremendous amount of anxiety out there in the community,” said Weinstein at a news conference Sunday. “We feel that at a minimum, we should offer the vaccine to minimize that anxiety.”

The bacteria that causes meningitis is not as contagious as the common cold, but experts say it can be spread through coughing or kissing. People who contract the illness can suffer from fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, confusion and increased sensitivity to light.

Duran said health officials in the New York area have reported seven deaths from bacterial meningitis this year. He said he understands the fears of some who are afraid that an increase in meningitis outbreak would be labeled as a “gay disease,” as AIDS was in the early 1980s.

But he said the early response then was not strong enough, and that's why a greater response now to meningitis is appropriate.

“What we have learned in our experience with the HIV epidemic is sometimes what happens in New York replicates itself in Los Angeles,” said Duran. “We learned some really painful lessons last time.”

There are two different types of meningitis vaccines: a conjugate vaccine that's given to young people and most adults, and a polysaccharide vaccine for adults older than 55.  The foundation will offer the conjugate vaccine. It requires an initial inoculation, followed by a booster eight weeks later, said Dr. Parveen Kaur, a physician working with the foundation's healthcare centers.

The incubation period for bacterial meningitis is two to seven days, while the vaccine requires about 10 days to provoke an immune response, said Kaur.

Weinstein said the shot costs the foundation $105. It has 10,000 doses available. The foundation will ask for donations or insurance, but it will not turn down anyone who who wants a shot, he said.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) issued a statement after the AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced its vaccination plans.

In the statement, LACDPH said it had been notified on April 9 of a patient with meningococcal meningitis, and that it has begun an investigation that includes identifying contacts with that person.

At this point in the investigation, Public Health has not identified any other cases of meningococcal meningitis associated with this patient, nor identified any linkage between this patient and outbreaks that have been reported in other areas of the country.

Public Health is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to identify the specific strain of the disease from this patient. The specific strain is expected to be identified in the public health laboratory by the end of next week.

The CDC, CDPH and LACDPH do not recommend a vaccination campaign in response to this one single patient with meningococcal meningitis in Los Angeles. Routine vaccination is recommended for children and teens.  Adult vaccination is recommended for persons with specific medical conditions, laboratory workers exposed to the meningococcal bacteria, and travelers to regions of the world with high rates of meningococcal disease.