Quad-City Times. Dec. 13, 2020.

We need to keep up with the other vaccines, too

We’re all eagerly awaiting the full rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, but there was some separate news last week about vaccines that ought to worry all of us.

We’ve known for months that the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in fewer inoculations, particularly among children, as school and other schedules have been disrupted. Still, we saw last week just how disruptive the pandemic has been to this aspect of our lives when Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Iowa said that routine immunizations of school-age children declined more than 20%, a remarkable figure.

These vaccines protect against highly contagious and preventable diseases like measles, polio and whooping cough.

Such a big drop is nothing to shrug off. The missing vaccines increase the risk of outbreaks and lower community protections against these diseases.

Consider measles. The threshold for herd immunity for measles is 93%, so a dropoff this big is no small matter.

This decline isn’t unique to Iowa, either. It’s a problem all across the country. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released information last month that estimated that children will be missing 9 million vaccines this year. That number is huge. That’s a 26% decline from the year before. The insurer measured vaccinations in a period between January and September of this year.

Forty percent of parents said their child had missed vaccinations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We couldn’t get state-specific figures from Illinois last week, but officials at the Rock Island County Health Department tell us that missed vaccinations is a concern there, too. And the Chicago Tribune reported last month, “In May, the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement saying an estimated 70% to 80% of children were not seeing their pediatricians due to COVID-19 concerns, and urging parents to continue routine care and vaccinations.”

Also this spring, the Iowa Department of Public Health said that the number of vaccines administered in March and April in that state were down 40% from the same period last year.

We know this is difficult, but it is important that parents keep up with getting their children vaccinated, and that they take care of themselves too. This can’t be emphasized enough. It also is vital that public health officials in this country, even as they battle the coronavirus pandemic, mount a vigorous campaign to catch up so we turn these trends around.

Already, the number of measles cases reached a 23-year high last year, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Iowa, we saw just two measles cases last year, but they were the first since 2011. Last year, Illinois was reporting seven measles cases. That might seem like a small number, but Illinois is especially at risk because of the international traffic that goes through O’Hare Airport.

The World Health Organization noted recently that the number of cases in 2020 is down, but it warned that worldwide “more than 94 million people were at risk of missing vaccines due to paused measles campaigns in 26 countries.”

The WHO reported that there have been outbreaks in many of those countries.

We know this is on the radar screen of the local health departments, and we are hopeful they will move aggressively to help people catch up.

We all have been following the news about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout closely, and just last week public health experts in our area began explaining the first steps that are being taken in the distribution of these life-saving inoculations.

The good news with the missed childhood vaccines is that we don’t have to wait for a vaccine to get to us. These vaccines are already available and waiting. We just have to take action.

At a time when so much today seems out of our control, this is one area where we can introduce greater certainty into our lives and make a difference right now. It is important that we do so.


Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Dec. 9, 2020

Recovered COVID-19 patients hold key to helping those who are sick

The spike in COVID-19 cases in the past several weeks has led to hundreds of tri-state area residents contracting the virus.

While there are many disheartening ways to look at the surge statistics, there is one bright spot that could lead to better days ahead. The more positive cases we have, the more potential convalescent plasma donors we have.

But the positive repercussions only happen if people give.

This week, the Dubuque County Incident Management Team met with Dubuque County supervisors to lament the fact that despite public messaging efforts to inform residents who have recovered from COVID-19, only a limited number of patients are actually following through to donate.

Those who have had the novel coronavirus are carrying powerful antibodies in their blood that could save the lives of others now sick with the illness. Donating blood and plasma is always a life-saving proposition. But never before has the need been so urgent and so visible.

A potential plasma donor must:

Be at least 17 years old.

Have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Be at least 28 days out from recovery.

The need for plasma cannot be overstated.

Dubuque-area hospitals have seen the number of COVID-19 patients doubling every few weeks. With that increase in patients comes a higher demand for donations of convalescent plasma, which is taken from those who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat those currently suffering symptoms. Plasma-based COVID-19 treatment, granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, is primarily used for more severe symptoms such as breathing difficulty.

Having to wait for plasma is problematic because research shows that the earlier a patient gets it, the better effect it might have.

Tri-state area residents are always quick to help out friends, neighbors and community members in need. This is one way citizens could make a real impact and send a lifeline to someone who needs it.


Fort Dodge Messenger. Dec. 11, 2020.

This holiday season, support hometown businesses. They are the lifeblood of communities

It is no fault of billionaire Jeff Bezos that COVID-19 is the grinch who stole Christmas from many people in our communities. Bezos did not bring the virus to our country. We have no hesitation in suggesting that if he could end the epidemic by spending his entire fortune, he would do so.

Still, the coronavirus has increased Bezos’ wealth greatly. He is the founder of the online marketing goliath Amazon, which has never been more popular than now.

Tens of millions of Americans will do most, if not all, their holiday season shopping with Amazon and online retailers like it. They will argue that it simply is not safe for them to patronize local brick-and-mortar stores.

Local retailers, from mom-and-pop specialty shops to the big-box stores, rely on Christmas shoppers for significant chunks of the revenue that keeps them open year-round. If they have a bad holiday shopping season, they suffer terribly. Some many not survive long into the new year.

So what? Well, put on your thinking cap for a moment.

How many local residents work for Amazon? In all likelihood, none. Yet thousands of our friends, family members and neighbors rely on local stores to put bread and butter on the table.

What portion of local taxes — supporting our schools, law enforcement and dozens of other local government services — are paid by Amazon? Again, you guessed it: None, unless local sales taxes net a few pennies from online retailers.

And what happens when we need donations to support worthwhile local initiatives ranging from youth baseball to helping the needy at Christmas? Don’t bother asking Bezos for a contribution. Amazon doesn’t do local worthy causes, except in very rare situations.

Local retailers — many of whom have their own websites, by the way — are the very lifeblood of our communities. In a very real way, they are us.

Don’t let Amazon be the grinch who stole Christmas from them — and thus, our communities. Shop at home, if you can while staying safe. On Dec. 25, the knowledge you have supported local retailers will make your Christmas brighter.