By Kathryn Dean, Red Cross volunteer
Flu season is here and it’s time to start thinking about receiving your annual flu vaccination. According to the Ohio Department of Health, flu season in Ohio typically runs from October to March. However, you can get the flu at any time of the year. The American Red Cross recommends that you protect yourself and your loved ones by getting your annual flu vaccination this year.
“Vaccination is really the most effective way to protect yourself against influenza,” said Dr. Christine Schmotzer, vice chair of system pathology operations at University Hospitals in Cleveland and a member of the Board of Directors for the Red Cross of Northeast Ohio. “The flu vaccine is known to be effective at both preventing flu illness and decreasing the severity of flu illness.”
The Red Cross continues to recover from a significant shortfall in donations throughout late summer and fall and is in need of healthy donors to help meet the blood needs of more than 70 area hospitals and their patients in Northern Ohio. Only around 3% of the general population is eligible at any given time to donate blood due to a variety of factors, and when people become ill, eligibility drops even more. As flu numbers begin to climb across the country, it’s vital that healthy members of the community stay well by getting their annual vaccinations.
“It’s important to note that we recommend getting the flu vaccine every year to maximize the protective benefits,” Dr. Schmotzer said. “The protective effects of the virus decrease over a period of months, so they do not last stronglyinto the next season. Also, the virus changes frequently between seasons, so vaccine manufacturers modify the strains of virus in the vaccine to match the protection from season to season.”
Around 500 units of blood are needed per day in Northern Ohio and with the recent shortage, it’s more important than ever to come out and donate. The Red Cross recommends that as long as you are feeling healthy and symptom-free on the day of donation, it is okay to donate. There is no wait time between flu vaccination and blood donation. This includes vaccination against COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Those who come to give Oct. 21-Nov. 9 will get a $10 e-gift card to a restaurant merchant of choice to enjoy lunch on the Red Cross. Donors will also be automatically entered to win a $5,000 gift card. Visit RedCrossBlood.org or use the Red Cross Blood Donor App to schedule an appointment or find a blood drive near you.