Vaccinations, Health Concerns in Schools

Local News

Kara Kramer’s priority is keeping her kids healthy.  So when her son was diagnosed with Leukemia weeks before his fourth birthday, it was a complete shock.

“In hindsight, if I look back on it all, it was all symptoms of leukemia that i just hadn’t put together,” Kara Kramer said. “Always worried, always scared, and mostly trying to push that away a little bit because otherwise you couldn’t function.”

During treatment, Wade had a suppressed immune system,  so he couldn’t be vaccinated. 

“No, there are some vaccines you cannot give that child because weakened immune systems cannot respond to the vaccine and the vaccine may actually cause a bad infection in the child.” Dr. Patricia Quinlisk said.

Quinlisk says that is why vaccines are mandatory for school kids.

“They protect us. They keep us from getting some really, bad diseases.  And I’ve seen that even in my lifetime,” Quinlisk said

Iowa allows exemptions for medical and religious reasons. 

Trying to keep life as normal as possible, Wade’s parents kept him in school, and with the help of the school nurse, took precautions where they could.

“When there’d be a lot of germs roaming around school and a lot of kids with, she’d let me know and pretty much late fall he’d start wearing a mask to school and he’d wear it until after spring break.” Kara said.  

But they can’t know who is vaccinated in their school.  That’s confidential.  

“I’m sure they would, it probably never dawned on them that if their child is sick it could make someone else very very sick,” Kara said.

Local 5 is on your side, helping parents navigate the system. 

You can find out how many students in your child’s school are vaccinated on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website, idph.iowa.gov/immtb/immunization

If your child can’t be vaccinated for any medical reasons, you can work with the school.  If at all possible, Des Moines Public Schools tells us they will do what they can to keep unvaccinated students in different classes than immune suppressed students. That is never a guarantee, and you have to be mindful of lunchrooms and play areas. 

You can also work with parent groups, like the PTA, to send out information about your student or vaccine to educate parents.  

Wade is ten months past treatment, continuing his monthly check-ups, and getting stronger.  

“He started baseball this year and he loves it.” JP Kramer said.

We spoke to Senator Dennis Guth about a bill he supported in the legislature this past session to make it easier for parents to not vaccinate their kids.  

Guth says vaccines are not always as safe as they are promoted to be .  He plans to do some research over the interim to decide if personal conviction is a reason to opt out, if pharmaceutical companies need to be held more accountable, or if we should not do as many vaccinations at one time as early in life. 

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