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Arkansas doctors pushing for more COVID-19 vaccinations among children

As the omicron variant continues to spread around Arkansas, we're beginning to see more and more cases that are involving children throughout the state.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — As the omicron variant continues to spread around Arkansas, we're beginning to see more and more cases that are involving children throughout the state.

Healthcare professionals like Dr. Jessica Snowden, Division Chief for Pediatric Infectious Disease at Arkansas Children's Hospital, are starting to see that increase firsthand.

"I know we're all tired. As a parent I'm tired. As a person I'm tired. As a pediatrician I'm tired," Dr. Snowden said.

But with everything going on, health officials are focused on looking at the positives.

"The reassuring thing we are seeing so far is that, in general, kids seem to be less sick than they were with the delta variant," Dr. Snowden said. "But there's still a lot of them, just because there is so much COVID right now."

After Gov. Asa Hutchinson's press briefing Tuesday, Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas Secretary of Health, was asked what he thought about where the state is when it comes to kids and vaccines.

"When we only have 10% of our population, aged 5-11, that have received a full vaccination, that is concerning. They are at risk for potential complications of this virus," Dr. Romero said.

One of those complications is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), where different parts of the body could become inflamed due to the virus.

Complications like MIS-C are reduced in children who are fully vaccinated, Dr. Romero said. 

"So again, it protects against those complications," he said.

Dr. Romero also brought up another concern– the possibility of unvaccinated children getting diabetes. 

We asked Dr. Snowden if that was also something she was hearing.

She said it wasn't a guarantee, but it was a possibility.

"One of the things that we know happens with diabetes in kids is that frequently it is an infection that tips over from, you're someone at-risk of having diabetes to you having diabetes," Dr. Snowden said. "So, COVID may be one of those infections that has that ability."

And while that may be something that they're still trying to figure out, Dr. Snowden said there's one thing they know for sure – the best way to keep kids healthy and in school is by practicing the basics.

"If you're wearing a mask and if you're vaccinated, you're less likely to have to leave school when COVID shows up in your classroom," she said. "So the best way for all of us as parents to keep our kids where they're developing best is by going ahead and doing those things."

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