DES MOINES — The number of new reported COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in Iowa is falling, but experts say it’s vital more parents get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, and stay up to date on other routine vaccinations.

Joel Waddell, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, says he’s 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,” Waddell says. “And then we’re going to start seeing outbreaks of measles, whooping cough that can be even more deadly for kids than COVID.”

Coronavirus is linked to an increase in multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a rare but serious condition that can affect a child’s organs. Waddell says some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children due to worries about long-term impacts, but he says those concerns are groundless.  He says, “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 to decades later. Never.”

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