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

Effort to Eradicate Measles Worldwide Continues

By Brad Galvan, American Red Cross volunteer

Although August is National Immunization Awareness Month, the American Red Cross’s work crosses international borders with its Measles & Rubella Initiative, the Red Cross partners with global organizations on this vaccination campaign aimed at reducing measles worldwide.

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Measles, one of the most contagious and severe childhood diseases is very dangerous to those who are not immunized. The disease can be debilitating and even deadly. The only true method to prevent the disease is to protect children with the measles and rubella vaccine.

Jessica Tischler, Director of International Services for the Northeast Ohio Region of the Red Cross, said the goal of the Measles & Rubella Initiative is simple: Get children vaccinated to prevent the onset of measles. “It’s worked,” Jessica said. “With the help of partners like the United Nations Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control, UNICEF and the World Health Organization, more than two billion children have benefited by the vaccine.”  She noted that there has been a nearly 80 percent reduction in cases resulting in more than 20 million deaths potentially prevented from the disease.measles3

Locally, students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills have been collecting money to fund the measles vaccine, which costs $2 per shot. Since the start of their fundraising effort in 2004, the Gilmour students have raised more than $30,000.  We posted this article about the efforts of the students last year.

All Northeast Ohioans can help protect children in remote villages across the world without leaving their state. Simply text PREVENT to 90999 to give $10 to the Red Cross, donate online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.  Your gift will help children receive the lifesaving vaccine against measles