Dozens of men lined up Monday morning at an AIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy in West Hollywood to get a free meningitis vaccine, days after a local man died from the disease.
Allen Smith, a 21-year-old dance student, said he had a weak immune system and wanted to make sure that he was vaccinated to protect himself from the disease. After hearing about the death of Brett Shaad, a young lawyer who had contracted meningitis, Smith said he didn't want to take any chances.
"It reminded everyone how short life really is," Smith said as he waited for the shot.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation began offering the free vaccines Monday morning at three locations. "We just think it's a prudent public health action," said Ged Kenslea, spokesman for the organization.
Shaad's death comes after a deadly outbreak of meningitis in New York, primarily among gay men.
Eric Aronson, 41, who lives in West Hollywood, said he was in New York recently and was worried about the possibility of exposure. He heard about the free vaccines over the weekend and showed up early Monday morning.
"It does make you worry," he said. "We could all be susceptible."
Bacterial meningitis can be transmitted by coughing and kissing, though it is not as contagious as the common cold. The disease is treatable with antibiotics but can be fatal.
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