Doctors Worry About School Outbreaks of Preventable Diseases if Students Don’t Get Vaccinated

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DES MOINES, Iowa — There may not be a vaccination for COVID-19 yet, but as students head back to school, doctors are reminding parents to immunize their children for diseases that do have a vaccine.

“One of the big worries that we have with this pandemic is that there might be a secondary outbreak of a vaccine-preventable illness like measles or whooping cough,” said Dr. Scott Oelberg, a pediatrician at UnityPoint Health.

Dr. Oelberg said in April, some areas of the United States saw immunization rates drop as much as 50 percent.

“People are afraid to go out and they perceive the doctor’s office as a place where they could potentially get sick,” Dr. Oelberg said.

To keep people safe while visiting the clinic, Dr. Oelberg said UnityPoint is implementing constant cleaning, mask requirements and virtual waiting rooms.

“Patients and their parents wait in the car and they text or they call when they get here. Then we escort them back to their room so they never have to wait in a waiting room,” Dr. Oelberg said.

He said he hasn’t seen a lot of children with COVID-19, but he has seen a lot of children with anxiety about the pandemic. He worries this may increase as students head back to school.

“Having a positive attitude about going back to school and trying to not convey as much anxiety and worry to your child is going to be helpful overall in getting them ready to go back to school,” Dr. Oelberg said.

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