The Chicago Journal

A Promising Breakthrough in Meningitis Prevention

In a world where medical science continually advances, the story of Patti Wukovits and her daughter, Kimberly Coffey, serves as a poignant reminder of the urgency for improved protection against deadly diseases. Kimberly’s tragic battle with meningitis B, despite adhering to the CDC’s recommendations for vaccination, sheds light on a new turning point in the fight against this debilitating ailment. This article explores the significance of Pfizer’s pentavalent meningococcal vaccine, Penbraya, and how it has the potential to transform the landscape of meningitis vaccinations.

Kimberly’s Tragic Tale

Kimberly’s journey into the world of meningitis began with a high fever and body aches. She described it as feeling like her ankles were bleeding, a sensation that led to her mother, Patti Wukovits, rushing her to the emergency room. Tragically, Kimberly was diagnosed with meningitis B, a strain not covered by the existing MenACWY vaccine recommended by the CDC. Despite her mother’s best efforts, Kimberly lost her life to the disease, leaving her family forever changed.

The Inadequacy of Existing Vaccines

The MenACWY vaccine, which adolescents are advised to receive when they turn 11 or 12, offers protection against four groups of meningococcal bacteria. However, it falls short when it comes to the group that includes meningitis B. In Kimberly’s case, this inadequacy proved fatal. At the time, there was no vaccine to safeguard against meningitis B. The inadequacies of the existing vaccines called for a new, more comprehensive solution.

A Beacon of Hope: Penbraya

On a promising note, Pfizer’s Penbraya vaccine has emerged as a potential game-changer in the fight against meningococcal disease. Unlike its predecessors, Penbraya safeguards against not one, but five kinds of bacteria, making it a beacon of hope for individuals seeking broader protection with fewer shots.

Understanding Meningococcal Disease

Meningococcal disease, inclusive of meningitis, is a rare yet devastating illness caused by the bacteria neisseria meningitidis. It can lead to severe consequences such as infections in the lining of the brain and spinal cord, memory and concentration issues, seizures, balance problems, hearing loss, and even blindness. In some cases, it can escalate into a life-threatening blood infection known as septicemia or blood poisoning. Alarmingly, statistics reveal that approximately one in ten cases of bacterial meningitis results in fatality.

The Challenges of Early Diagnosis

Early diagnosis is critical in fighting meningococcal disease, but it’s often delayed due to symptoms that can mimic other infections like Covid-19 or the flu. Symptoms include fever, headache, nausea or vomiting, trouble waking, stiff neck, a distinctive skin rash, sensitivity to light, and brain fog. Swift action is essential, as the infection can spread rapidly, as seen in Kimberly’s case.

Transmission and Outbreaks

The disease is highly contagious and can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or sharing drinks with an infected person. While outbreaks are rare, they can be devastating, particularly in settings where people operate in close quarters, such as schools or dormitories.

Current Vaccine Recommendations

Presently, the CDC recommends two types of meningococcal vaccines in the United States. The MenACWY vaccine, which protects against A, C, W, and Y variations, is administered to preteens and teens. There is also the MenB vaccine, designed to combat the strain that claimed Kimberly’s life. The existing vaccination schedule requires multiple shots, which can be burdensome.

The Promise of a Simpler Vaccination Schedule

Recognizing the complexity of the current vaccination schedule, the CDC’s independent vaccine advisors have recommended Pfizer’s Penbraya vaccine, a pentavalent solution that protects against the majority of meningococcal disease in young people. It offers the prospect of increased vaccine coverage by streamlining the vaccination process with just two doses, administered six months apart.

The Road Ahead

While the committee’s vote on Penbraya is a significant step, it awaits final approval from the CDC. As we celebrate this turning point in the fight against meningitis, it’s crucial to ensure easy access to Pfizer’s groundbreaking vaccine to save lives and provide comprehensive protection.


Pfizer’s Penbraya vaccine signifies a new hope in the battle against meningococcal disease, especially for young adults and adolescents. Kimberly Coffey’s tragic story underscores the urgency for comprehensive protection, and Penbraya’s potential to simplify the vaccination process is a significant step forward. As we await the CDC’s final decision, this new vaccine offers a brighter future in safeguarding our youth against this deadly disease.

Pfizer cleared of stroke risks, CDC and experts claim

Pfizer: Despite the necessity of Covid-19 booster doses and vaccinations in general, some people still opt not to get the shots due to fear of getting sick.

Seniors, in particular, are anxious about the injections’ potential side effects since many have developed a phobia of strokes.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has conducted studies to dispel such concerns.


The discovery prompted the implementation of a CDC surveillance system that Pfizer’s omicron Covid variant booster dose was linked to an increased risk of stroke in adults 65 and older.

In collaboration with networks across the US, the CDC’s Immunization Safety offices, and a comprehensive healthcare organization, the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) system was developed.

It monitors and evaluates the safety of vaccinations using electronic health data from affiliate facilities.

It includes information on the type administered, the vaccination date, and any other vaccines received on the same day.

The VSD also utilizes information on health problems identified during doctor visits, ER visits, urgent care visits, and hospital stays.


The CDC issued a press release on its website on Friday.

Following the availability and use of the updated (bivalent) COVID-19 vaccines, CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a near real-time surveillance system, met the statistical criteria to prompt additional investigation into whether there was a safety concern for ischemic stroke in people ages 65 and older who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent.

Rapid-response investigation of the signal in the VSD raised a question of whether people 65 and older who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Vivalent were more likely to have an ischemic stroke in the 21 days following vaccination compared with days 22-42 following the vaccination.

A review of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services database found that there was no increased risk of stroke as a result of the modified vaccines.

Additionally, Pfizer-BioNTech’s global safety database has not discovered any signs of stroke in connection with the updated injections.

Read also: Covid-19 surges among senior citizens or ‘senior waves’


A CDC spokesperson said the problem was first brought up in late November.

The CDC began looking into the possibility of seniors suffering a stroke 21 days after receiving the Pfizer injection when it was discovered in the middle of December, and worries persisted.

For Moderna boosters, the initial signal and results were the same.

The representative stated that 130 patients 65 and older who had the Pfizer omicron booster injection suffered strokes within 21 days.

More than 550,000 seniors who had their booster injection reported the data.

According to the CDC, no other monitoring system has so far detected any issues with the Pfizer booster.


No extra stroke risk was noted when researchers examined the data from the following sources:

  • Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs
  • The Vaccine Adverse Reporting System
  • Pfizer’s global safety database

“Although the totality of the data currently suggests that it is very unlikely that the signal in VSD represents a true clinical risk, we believe it is important to share this information with the public, as we have in the past, when one of our safety monitoring systems detects a signal,” the CDC wrote.

The CDC asserts that the monitoring system picks up signals from sources unrelated to immunization.

The agency spokesperson noted that the investigations should provide a clearer view and additional facts in the upcoming weeks.


The Food and Drug Administration will convene a panel discussion with independent immunization authorities on January 26 to tackle the issue.

Furthermore, Pfizer said in a statement made on Friday that there is no proof between the Covid vaccination and ischemic strokes.

Pfizer, BioNTech, the CDC, and the FDA have not discovered any connections between the different monitoring systems in the United States, claims company spokesperson Kit Longley.

“Compared to published incidence rates of ischemic stroke in this older population, the companies to date have observed a lower number of reported ischemic strokes following the vaccination with the omicron BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent vaccine,” said Longley.

The omicron injection from Pfizer is still prescribed by the CDC.

Those who have finished the primary vaccine series and are five years of age or older are eligible for the booster.

Ages six months to four years old are the youngest children that can receive an omicron injection.


CDC says it’s ‘very unlikely’ Pfizer booster carries stroke risk for seniors after launching review

CDC & FDA identify preliminary COVID-19 vaccine safety signal for persons aged 65 years and older