Health officials struggling to contain a measles outbreak that's hit hard in Minneapolis' large Somali community are running into resistance from parents who fear the vaccine could give their children autism.The outbreak began when an underage toddler who couldn't receive the vaccine became infected while visiting Somalia. That toddler became patient zero in the outbreak, as it spread among other children who were not vaccinated or who could not be vaccinated due to their age. This is a disease that was all but eradicated in the US except for the occasional case that was brought in just as this outbreak was.
Fourteen confirmed measles cases have been reported in Minnesota since February. Half have been in Somali children, six of whom were not vaccinated and one who was not old enough for shots. State officials have linked all but one of the cases to an unvaccinated Somali infant who returned from a trip to Kenya in February. The state had reported zero or one case of measles a year for most of the past decade.
Amid the outbreak, a now-discredited British researcher who claimed there was a link between vaccines and autism has been meeting with local Somalis. Some worry Andrew Wakefield is stoking vaccination fears, but organizers say the meetings were merely a chance for parents to ask him questions.
"Unfortunately a lot of the media thinks he's saying 'Don't get vaccinated.' That's far from the truth. He's basically encouraging people to get vaccinated but do your homework and know the risks," said Wayne Rohde, a co-founder of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota, which says parents should have other options for immunizing their children.
Measles has been all but eradicated in the United States, but accounts for about 200,000 annual deaths worldwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None of those infected in Minnesota have died, though eight have required hospitalization.
The infections come as autism concerns have surged over an apparent rise in cases in Minnesota's Somali community, the largest in the U.S. Officials, though, haven't determined if that's really happening.
It again highlights the junk science Wakefield peddled; kids should not be getting sick from diseases that are easily prevented by vaccination. Moreover, there's absolutely no way that Wakefield should be having anything to do with the practice of medicine or talking about vaccines. He's responsible for more misery and death and health care costs than one could possibly realize through his bogus claims.
Eight of the Minnesota kids have had to be hospitalized.