HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Free meningitis vaccinations will be available beginning today at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s pharmacies in West Hollywood and Hollywood and its Men’s Wellness Center in East Hollywood.

The vaccinations are being made available in response to the recent death of a West Hollywood man from bacterial meningitis and cases of a potentially life-threatening strain of the disease that has circulated in men-who-have-sex-with-men in New York, foundation president Michael Weinstein said

“With our outreach and free vaccinations, we want to promote caution and education, and prevent unnecessary concern or panic in the community,” said Dr. Otto Yang, an infectious diseases physician who is the foundation’s scientific director.

Persons at the highest risk are those who have close exposures to many persons, such as students in dormitories or military personnel in barracks, and persons with weakened immune systems, Yang said.

Meningococcal meningitis can be a very rapid and deadly disease, Yang said.

“However, the chance of a large scale outbreak of this disease is relatively small, and getting infected usually requires close personal contact and exposure to body fluids of an infected person,” Yang said.

“Like the case of a healthy high school student in Palisades High School who died of meningococcal meningitis a couple of years ago, this is most likely one of the isolated cases that pop up in the U.S. every year. That said, this tragedy serves as a reminder that people who believe they are at risk should get the vaccine, which is very safe and effective, and prophylactic antibiotics if they may have had a significant recent exposure.”

The vaccinations will be administered from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday at the foundation’s pharmacies at 8212 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood and 6210 Sunset Blvd. and 5:30-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the foundation’s Men’s Wellness Center at 1300 N. Vermont Ave. in East Hollywood.

“We are prepared to offer up to 10,000 vaccinations for free at these three AHF locations and will consider adding additional AHF sites should there be a need or demand,” Weinstein said.

More information about the foundation’s meningitis vaccine program is available by calling Michael Zimmerman, the program director of the foundation’s Hollywood Men’s Wellness Program, at (323) 436-8900, extension 5819.