Missouri Pediatricians Speak out to Curb in Child COVID-19 Cases


Today, Missouri pediatricians 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. The 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 ineligible to receive the vaccine (those 12 and under) at a greater risk of contracting the virus.

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.

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.

“There’s a general notion that kids don’t get sick, but it’s not true. We’ve seen an uptick in the number of pediatric COVID patients with serious illness. We have had limited to no COVID beds in our pediatric ICU which is very concerning. I don't want to have to send our kids somewhere far away for their care,” said Kayce Morton, DO, a pediatrician at CoxHealth in Springfield.

From Kansas City to St. Louis, to rural parts of the state, growing cases of kids with COVID-19 and other viruses are putting a strain on hospitals statewide. 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.

“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.”

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. For more information about COVID vaccines and where to access them in the state, visit www.mostopscovid.com

See below for additional quotes, bios and contact information for the participating physicians.

“The initial rollout of COVID-19 information was rocky in some places and when you start out that way it doesn’t build trust. Trust does not happen overnight; it must be earned. There are a lot of rumors and myths for not wanting the vaccine, but that’s why we’re here. 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.”

Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson, MD, Family Medicine Physician and Interim Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at St. Louis University School of Medicine

Media Contact: Maggie Rotermund maggie.rotermund@slu.edu

“As parents, we are always thinking of ways to protect our children. We bundle them up when they’re born, strap them in safety seats as they grow, give them mittens when it’s cold, and protect them from bullies when we can. This is no different. The layers of protection are just changing. One is a vaccine for parents and others include masks and social distancing for our children.”

Dr. Kristin Sohl, MD, FAAP, President at Missouri Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrician at MU Health (Columbia)  Media Contact(s): Eric Mazee (University of Missouri) mazee@health.missouri.edu, Kelsey Thompson (MOAAP) kthompson@moaap.org

“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. We want parents to know the vaccines are safe, but we also want to validate their concerns and address any confusion. Trust is the cornerstone of the pediatrician-parent relationship. We have to treat parents as partners, they hold the key to getting the COVID situation under control.”

Dr. Kenneth Haller, MD SLUCare Pediatrician at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital Media Contact: Kanna Rook kanna.rook@ssmhealth.com  

“Unfortunately, children are getting sicker and sicker with the new COVID variant. Many children’s hospitals are running out of hospital beds to treat this vulnerable population. That is a scary place to be. No one worries about these statistics until it is their child or grandchild in need of a hospital bed and one is not available for them. Children under 12 years of age are currently unable to get the COVID vaccine. We know the best way to protect these kids is to surround them with vaccinated adults.”

Dr. Cassidy Leonard-Scott, DO, Pediatrician at the Hannibal Regional Medical Group

Media Contact: Sara Swisher Sara.Swisher@hannibalregional.org

“The youngest patient I've diagnosed is nine weeks old. It was a daycare exposure and it just broke my heart. I have other patients who are now former student athletes because they’re now unable to walk up the stairs or from the living room to the kitchen without getting short of breath. Some adults and children get COVID and they do just fine but some don’t fully recover. You never know how COVID will affect you and your children, so it’s best to get vaccinated and not take that chance.”

Dr. Claudia Preuschoff, MD. Pediatrician in Poplar Bluff, MO. Affiliated with Saint Francis Medical Center. Media Contact: Danielle Liley-Torbet dtorbet@sfmc.net

“There’s a general notion that kids don’t get sick, but it’s not true. We’ve seen an uptick in the number of pediatric COVID patients with serious illness. We have had limited to no COVID beds in our pediatric ICU which is very concerning. I don't want to have to send our kids somewhere far away for their care.”

Dr. Kayce Morton, DO. Pediatrician in Springfield, Missouri. Affiliated with CoxHealth Springfield.
Media Contact: 
Kelsey Thompson (MOAAP) kthompson@moaap.org

Contact: Courtney Stewart