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Experts urge more Iowa parents to get children vaccinated against COVID-19

Experts are urging more Iowa parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19
Experts are urging more Iowa parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19

As the number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to drop, experts say it remains vital that more parents get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19.

According to state data, less than a quarter of Iowa’s 5- to 11-year-olds have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The virus has been linked to an increase in multi system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, in children, a rare but serious condition that can affect a child’s organs. Its exact cause is unknown.

Joel Waddell, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, said he sees the condition in children who are unvaccinated.

He said even though the rate of children who are hospitalized at Blank has dropped as state infection numbers have declined, he expects the rate of kids with MIS-C to continue to increase.

“The reason for that is with every other dominant variant, the peak cases of MIS-C have occurred about a month or so after the peak cases of acute COVID within a community," Waddell said. "And so our peak cases were mid- to late January, and we're not a month out from that yet.”

He said some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children due to concerns about fertility issues and long-term effects. But research has shown there’s no evidence to support these concerns.

"In the history of vaccines – so a couple hundred years now – of every vaccine that's ever been licensed out there, there's never been a case where a side effect from a vaccine only showed up years, two decades later. Never," he said.

Waddell said he’s also seen a decrease in routine childhood vaccinations against measles, whooping cough and HPV.

"What is very frightening to me is that we won't get those numbers back up to the pre-pandemic vaccination level," he said. "And then we're going to start seeing outbreaks of measles, whooping cough that can be even more deadly for kids than COVID."

Waddell said it's extremely important that parents make sure their children's vaccinations are up to date.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter