Missouri pediatricians speak out in vaccination campaign
Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson, who received her first vaccination shot at St. Louis University Hospital on December 28, 2020, is working to reduce pediatric COVID-19 cases through a Missouri Foundation for Health campaign to protect children from the virus by increasing adult vaccinations.
From St. Louis to Kansas City, to rural parts of the state, growing cases of kids with COVID-19 and other viruses are putting a strain on hospitals statewide.
A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows child cases in the U.S have “steadily increased” since the beginning of July.
A total of 121,427 pediatric cases were reported the week of August 12. In Missouri, children make up 11.5% of the total number of COVID-19 cases in the state.
Missouri pediatricians have teamed up with Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH) to launch a campaign that aims to protect kids from COVID-19 by increasing adult vaccinations throughout the state.
“We’ve seen an uptick in the number of pediatric COVID patients with serious illness in addition to having limited to no COVID beds in our pediatric ICU, which is very concerning,” said Kayce Morton, DO, a pediatrician at CoxHealth in Springfield. “I don't want to have to send our kids somewhere far away for their care.”
Physicians are sounding the alarm as pediatric COVID cases continue to surge throughout Missouri and much of the country.
According to the CDC, unvaccinated adults and teens put children who are 12 years or younger and ineligible to receive the vaccine at a greater risk of contracting the virus.
“We understand that Missourians want to make their own choices, and we hope that in making those choices, they learn the facts and consider those who oftentimes can’t make the choice for themselves – our children,” said Dr. Dwayne Proctor, MFH president and CEO.
“We could be entering the most dangerous point of the pandemic for our children, and as the school year begins, we have to have a conversation about how to best protect them from serious illness. We know parents trust pediatricians to give them accurate information. This phase of the campaign, #KidDocsFightCovid, will encourage adults to contact trusted physicians and get their COVID questions answered.”
The participating Missouri physicians represent various hospital systems and different regions of the state, but all agree the spike in pediatric COVID-19 cases is alarming and must be taken seriously as the more-contagious Delta variant continues to spread.
While the rise in child cases has made some parents, who have not made the choice to get vaccines now more open, others are still holding out.
The Foundation hopes local pediatricians can encourage parents on the fence to consider the risk to children and what is needed to keep them out of the ICU.
“The initial rollout of COVID-19 information was rocky in some places and when you start out that way it doesn’t build trust,” Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson, MD, family medicine physician and interim assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion at St. Louis University School of Medicine, said.
“The best people to turn to for medical advice are your trusted medical professionals, and I want more families to reach out to us for answers.”
As part of the campaign the pediatricians will be sharing their personal advice and stories on social media using the hashtag #KidDocsFightCovid, as well as through radio and other media outlets.
“There’s confusing information coming from all levels of government as well as online and traditional media, so I don’t blame parents for being skeptical,” Dr. Kenneth Haller, MD SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, said.
“We want parents to know the vaccines are safe, but we also want to validate their concerns and address any confusion. We have to treat parents as partners, they hold the key to getting the COVID situation under control.”
For more information about COVID vaccines and where to access them in the state, visit www.mostopscovid.com.