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

Vaccinated and ready to travel?

Here are some things to check before you leave Northern Ohio

By: Doug Bardwell, Red Cross Volunteer

Travel restrictions have just been lifted for those who want to go to Europe, so it appears that travel season is about to switch into high gear here in Northern Ohio.  If you are planning a trip out of the country, there are a number of points you’ll want to check to ensure that it is a safe and enjoyable experience.   

Does your hospitalization cover you when you travel?  Some only work in this country, and some only with certain health organizations. Here’s a good reference. 

Driving? Will your car insurance cover you when you cross into Canada (probably) or into Mexico (probably not). Be sure to call your agent and verify. You also need to check if you’ll be renting a car – most local policies don’t cover rentals abroad.

And don’t forget to check very specifically about your cellphone rates outside the country. Many people didn’t check first, only to find out that international rates added thousands to their cellphone bill.   

Check your credit cards. Some issue surcharges for international transactions, while others do not. Also, avoid travelers’ cash exchanges at airports, which usually offer less advantageous conversion rates than banks in town.

Be sure to notify your credit card company about when you plan to be out of town (even in this country), so your cards are not held up pending “fraud protection” while you try to prove it’s really you buying shoes in Guadalajara.

Are you up to date on your vaccinations, malaria shots, tetanus shots, etc. Let your county health care professional know where you’ll be traveling and see if any additional shots are required. Here’s the link to Cuyahoga County’s board of health, but each county should have their own.

Are there any travel advisories issued by our State Department for the countries you plan to visit? You can sign up there for travel advisories.

Before you go, photograph or scan your passport, immunization record, any important medical information and emergency numbers for your credit cards and bank. Put it on a small USB flash drive that you can hide in your socks, just in case you are robbed.  Also leave a duplicate of the information with a friend or relative who is not traveling with you.

Lastly, before you go, make a blood donation appointment.  There’s a severe shortage right now, and the need is great.  If you’ve never donated before, you can load the Red Cross Blood app on your phone, and shortly after your donation, you’ll know what blood type you are. Then, while you are traveling, rest easy, knowing your donation can save up to three lives.

Click here for a printable checklist when you start your travel planning.

Gilmour Students Tackle Global Health Issue

By Anmol Nigam, American Red Cross Communications Volunteer

measles

In the year 2000, a public health milestone was reached. It was the year measles was eliminated from the United States.  Nearly ten years later, students at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio decided there was still more to be done. While eliminated locally, measles was still causing half a million deaths every year around the world.  The students knew that for every dollar raised for the American Red Cross Measles and Rubella Initiative, the life of a child could be saved. Inspired by that work, a group of seniors at Gilmour formed their own “Measles Initiative” to help out. Since the foundation of the student organization, the group has raised a total of nearly $30,000 to provide children with life-saving vaccines.

Gilmour Mathematics Instructor Karen Roxbury serves as the club moderator for the Measles initiative club. She explains that her role is minor compared to the efforts of her students.

“The student members plan and execute all aspects of the fundraising activities.  It is their passion that allows us to raise funds to support health initiatives in the world,” Roxbury said. “ I have so much respect and admiration for their dedication.”

The Measles Initiative fundraises through three yearly events: a halloween costume contest, a valentine’s day candy-gram, and a used clothing sale. Those familiar with the organization say that the club helps children in more ways than one.

“Measles is a great way for young people to get involved with big issues,” explained recent graduate Hannah Kirchner in an interview with the Gilmour Lancet.

For big issues like this, it takes global coordination. In 2001, the Measles & Rubella Initiative was announced to stop child death from measles or disability from congenital rubella syndrome.

The Initiative was founded by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the CDC, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The Measles & Rubella Initiative is a global partnership established to eradicate measles and rubella, saving the lives of millions of people. Working with partner organizations, the American Red Cross has increased access to vaccinations in areas with the highest risks for measles infection.

Worse than the Common Cold

Those  not vaccinated are at serious risk for infection. Without the immunity provided by vaccines, people exposed to measles have up to a 90% chance of also becoming infected. The first symptoms start 10-12 days from contact with the microscopic measles virus. This virus can easily spread through the air and starts with a high fever. Days later, a rash appears on the face and neck, rapidly spreading over the entire body within three days.

The CDC explains that “Measles can be a serious in all age groups. However, children younger than 5 years of age and adults older than 20 years of age are more likely to suffer from measles complications.”

Children with poor nutrition and individuals with weakened immune systems are some of the highest risk groups for these complications. 1 out of 10 of these high-risk infections results in death. Despite the high virulence of the disease, it is entirely preventable with the measles vaccination. Often, this vaccination is combined with the vaccination for rubella, which is known as “German Measles.”

Ways You Can Help

On the ten-year anniversary of the initiative’s foundation, Chief International Officer of the American Red Cross David Meltzer said, “With every dollar donated, we vaccinated another child. Across the globe, we stopped outbreaks, improved treatment and protected future generations from one of the world’s deadliest diseases. This milestone in measles control is significant and improves the overall outlook for children’s health around the world.”

The World Health Organization estimates that over 17 million lives have been saved from increased measles vaccinations. While there has been progress, increased efforts to ensure global coverage are still needed. The latest estimates show a 84% drop in measles deaths since the start of the initiative. Despite these strides in coverage, more than 430 children still die every day from this preventable disease.

You can help Red Cross efforts to eradicate measles worldwide by texting the word PREVENT to 90999 to make a $10 donation.  Or you can donate online, or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

Mike Parks, Regional CEO of the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio, said, “We are grateful to the students of Gilmour Academy for their part in tackling this global health issue on a local level. Those who have taken part in the school’s Measles Initiative should feel good about the good they’ve done.”

Learn more about the Measles & Rubella Initiative here.