New York making it easier to get Novartis, Sanofi shots

Health authorities face numerous social, political and economic obstacles to increasing rates of immunization. In some cases, failings of the healthcare infrastructure itself are to blame. With a meningitis outbreak spreading across New York City, lawmakers are trying to remove one such obstacle.

A spike in cases of bacterial meningitis among gay men in New York City around the start of the year encouraged more people to get vaccinated, but this highlighted a supply problem. "Doctors don't routinely stock the meningitis vaccine," Democratic State Senator Brad Hoylman told The New York Times. The state legislature has now passed a bill to resolve this supply problem.

The bill will allow pharmacists to administer the vaccine, saving people the need to go back and forth between their doctor and druggist to get immunized. Quadrivalent meningococcal vaccines from Novartis ($NVS) and Sanofi ($SNY) are approved and available, and are now set to join the short list of shots New York pharmacists can administer. Other jabs on the list include vaccines for the flu, pneumonia and acute herpes zoster.

Since 2010, there have been 22 confirmed cases of bacterial meningitis among gay men in New York City. Almost one-third of the cases have ended in death. The cases have prompted a spike in demand for the vaccines, with one pharmacist reporting that four people a day are coming for prescriptions. In the past, one person sought vaccination every 10 months. The New York City health department estimates that more than 13,000 people have received the vaccine as a result of the outbreak.

There has not been a confirmed case since February, but with the annual Gay Pride celebration approaching--which could have attendance of over one million people--city health officials are concerned there could be a further outbreak. Pharmacists will not be able to vaccinate people ahead of the event, though. If signed into law by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the bill will take 90 days to go into effect.

- read the NYT article