During National Immunization Awareness Month, ensure your vaccinations are up to date

By Tim Poe, American Red Cross volunteer

Some moments remain in memory with surprising detail. While recent, I suspect receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will remain in mine. Not so much for the injections themselves but for the relief, plans and hope they brought. Even after the first shot, I looked forward to seeing friends, attending family gatherings, hearing live music, traveling and everyday things like grocery shopping without risk assessments. While the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy are delaying these plans, I cling to a cautious optimism, am grateful that many have some defense against the virus, and am in awe at how quickly and effectively science and knowledge respond to grave threats.

I realize how fortunate I am to have grown up without risk of measles, polio, tetanus and several other diseases, thanks to immunizations. Many are not so fortunate. This is something that the American Red Cross and partner organizations are continuously working to remedy. I am also reminded that we must keep up with our vaccinations. Since August is National Immunization Awareness month, now is an excellent time to ensure your and your family’s vaccinations are up to date.

In addition to the COVID-19 vaccine, other immunizations are needed, especially as many resume pre-pandemic behaviors. Gatherings carry influenza risk, especially in fall and winter, so do not forget your flu shot this year. Travel is also booming, and those traveling abroad should be properly immunized for the destination. (For more information on travel preparedness, read this blog.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that all adults need vaccines for COVID-19, influenza, Td or Tdap (tetanus) and others, depending on circumstances. In addition, routine vaccinations throughout childhood help prevent 14 diseases. In fact, the CDC says, “among children born from 1994-2018, vaccinations will prevent an estimated 936,000 early deaths, 8 million hospitalizations and 419 million illnesses.”

Vaccine effectiveness and the need for vigilance is especially clear with measles and rubella (German measles). Measles, an exceptionally contagious and severe childhood disease, surged in 2019, though an effective vaccine exists. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that global measles cases increased to 869,770 in 2019 with 207,500 deaths. While cases were lower in 2020, the WHO says the pandemic disrupted vaccination and prevention efforts. As of November 2020, it estimates “more than 94 million people were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns in 26 countries.”

September 27, 2018. Nairobi, Kenya. Prince Osinachi sits in a Red Cross volunteer’s arms after receiving routine immunizations in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Red Cross and its partners in the Measles & Rubella Initiative are working to create a world free of these diseases. The vaccine is safe, effective and one of the most cost-effective health interventions available. Since 2001, the initiative has vaccinated 2 billion children, preventing over 23 million measles-related deaths. Learn more here. Please consider donating if you can help with this effort.

Your doctor and county board of health can help with vaccinations. For more information on vaccination clinics at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, CLICK HERE. If you need a COVID-19 vaccine, visit the CDC’s website.

Edited by Glenda Bogar, Red Cross volunteer

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