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Meningitis Vaccination Legislation Advances to Senate Chamber and Assembly Codes Committee

A.0791/S.4324 will protect all New Yorkers from silent killer


 For Immediate Release
May 28, 2015 

Anthony Hayes | 917.601.0410 |
Jennifer Daly | 860.398.3916 |

Albany, NY - Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), along with ten medical, health practitioner, and patient advocacy organizations, applauds members of the Assembly and Senate Health Committees for advancing bi-partisan legislation (A.0791/S.4324), sponsored by Assembly Member Aileen Gunther and state Senator Kemp Hannon. The Assembly Health Committee advanced the bill to Codes, and the Senate Health Committee advanced the bill to the Senate Chamber. The bill is aligned with CDC recommendations and would add meningococcal vaccines to the list of vaccines a child would receive before entering the 6th grade and a booster dose before entering 11th grade.

Meningitis is a highly-contagious, fast-moving disease that develops with flu-like symptoms. Many times victims assume they are simply fighting the flu, but within a matter of hours are fighting for their lives. Those at greatest risk for the disease include young adults ages 16 to 21, those living in communal settings like college dormitories, and those living with HIV and AIDS. Meningitis is easily spread by saliva through simple, everyday activities like taking a sip of water out of a glass from someone who is infected or simply by being in close contact.

"Thanks to the leadership of Senator Hannon and Assembly Member Gunther, New Yorkers, particularly those at high risk because of their HIV status, are one step closer to being protected against meningitis," said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie. "This bill has bi-partisan support, as well as support from many local and national organizations. We are calling on both chambers to pass this bill, which will protect all New Yorkers."

"I lost my fiancé, Kyle, to this devastating disease," said Kevin Cummines, an advocate personally affected by meningitis. "This vaccine could have saved his life, and I never want to see another person lost unnecessarily to meningitis."

"Vaccines are a highly effective means of preventing infectious diseases and were recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century", said Frank DeMeo, Director of the New York Chapter of March of Dimes. "March of Dimes remains committed to improving access to and utilization of vaccines and supports the addition of meningococcal disease to New York's vaccination schedule".

"I buried my 17-year-old daughter in her prom dress, just two days before she was going to wear it to her prom," said Patti Wukovits, RN, Executive Director, The Kimberly Coffey Foundation. "No parent should bury their child-especially to a vaccine-preventable disease like meningitis."

"Meningococcal disease is caused by the meningococcus bacteria. It is a leading cause of bacterial meningitis, an infection involving the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria are transmitted via nose and throat droplets, by coughing, sneezing or kissing. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion and sleepiness. Meningococcal disease also causes blood infections. About one in every ten people who get the disease dies from it. The disease may cause survivors to possibly lose a limb, become deaf, have nervous system problems, become developmentally disabled, or suffer seizures or strokes. The Medical Society of the State of New York strongly supports this legislation, which would require that school-age children receive the meningococcal vaccine. MSSNY now urges that the entire New York State Legislature to support this essential public health measure," said MSSNY President, Joseph R. Maldonado, Jr., Md, MSc, MBA, DipEBHC.

There have been repeated outbreaks of meningitis in recent years. In 2015 alone, there have been cases at the University of Rochester, Yale University, Providence College, and the University of Oregon, where six students contracted the disease, including one who died.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1,000 people contract meningitis each year in the United States. Ten to fifteen percent of those diagnosed die of meningococcal disease, and hundreds more lose limbs, hearing, and experience other serious, life-long complications.

The organizations and patient advocacy groups in support of this bill include: The American Academy of Pediatrics, Latino Commission on AIDS, Kimberly Coffey Foundation, March of Dimes, Medical Society of the State of New York, Meningitis Angels, National Meningitis Association, The Nurse Practitioner Association New York State, New York State Academy of Family Physicians, and the New York Chapter of the American College of Physicians.


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About GMHC
Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) is the nation's leading provider of HIV/AIDS care, prevention services and advocacy, serving nearly 9,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, the epidemic's largest U.S. epicenter. As the world's first HIV and AIDS service organization GMHC is an expert in providing services that every person affected by the epidemic deserves. GMHC is on the front lines caring for people who are both HIV negative and positive, including: testing, nutrition, legal, mental health and education services. GMHC also advocates for stronger public policies at the local, state and federal level with the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic in New York State by 2020. Most recently, GMHC and other HIV/AIDS organizations successfully persuaded the federal government to recommend widespread use of PrEP, a new daily treatment that is over 90% effective in preventing HIV infection. For more information, visit

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