COVID Illinois

New study in Illinois shows impact of COVID vaccine on asthma symptoms

"For every 10 percentage point increase in the COVID vaccination rate, we saw a 0.36% decrease in the prevalence of asthma symptoms," said Dr. Lakshmi Halasyamani, a co-author of the study.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A study co-authored by a clinician at Illinois' Endeavor Health found states with high rates of COVID-19 vaccination saw a decline in symptoms in kids with asthma.

"In communities where there are higher COVID vaccination rates, there are fewer kids who have asthma symptoms," said Dr. Lakshmi Halasyamani, chief clinical officer at Endeavor Health and a co-author of the study.

Together with Dr. Matthew Davis, chief scientific officer at Nemours Children’s Health, Halasyamani examined statewide vaccination rates and compared parent-reported childhood asthma symptoms before the COVID-19 vaccine in 2018-2019 with those reported in 2020-2021 and found a significant decrease.

In Illinois, for example, the state’s vaccination rate in 2020-2021 was 75.4% and parent-reported symptoms dropped by 1.5%.

"For every 10 percentage point increase in the COVID vaccination rate, we saw a 0.36% decrease in the prevalence of asthma symptoms," said Halasyamani. "Now, that doesn't sound like a lot, 0.36%, but when you look at the number of children who have asthma, it's hundreds of thousands of fewer kids who reported asthma symptoms."

Fewer asthma symptoms is what Dr. Julie Holland hopes for.

"As a pediatrician, we are happy to treat kids with asthma, but we would really rather prevent it, prevent the illness from happening in the first place," said Holland, vice president of Pediatric Primary Care at Endeavor Health.

Prevention includes avoiding environmental triggers like cigarette smoke or vaping and limiting time outdoors on air quality alert days, but Holland said respiratory illnesses remain the number one trigger.

"When kids get respiratory illnesses and they get sick, their asthma flares up. So if we can prevent those illnesses by vaccine, then that makes a lot of sense that they're going to have less severe asthma," Holland said.

Holland is recommending the COVID-19 vaccine for her patients, however she did say any children getting their school physicals in July and early August should hold off on getting a COVID vaccine until the updated versions targeting the newer strains are released this fall.

“Wait and get the vaccine in August or September when it comes out. And that's generally the time the flu vaccine comes out as well. So do yourself and your kids a favor and get both vaccines at the same time this fall," Holland said.

"People make decisions about getting vaccines for themselves. But when we choose to get a vaccine for ourselves, it doesn't benefit just ourself. It benefits our immediate family, but more importantly, it benefits the broader community,” said Halasyamani.

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