Saturday, May 6, 2017

Anti-Vaxxers Spark a Measles Epidemic in Minnesota

Since about 2008 anti-vaxxers have been telling the Somali immigrant community in Minnesota that vaccines cause autism. Previously vaccination rates among the Somali community in Minnesota had actually been higher than the general population. There is no evidence to link vaccines with autism. And what has been the result? A record breaking measles epidemic is now ravaging Minnesota. It is the worse epidemic the state has endured in thirty years. It is particularly affecting the Somali immigrant community that had been misinformed into believing that vaccines were dangerous.
The US state of Minnesota is dealing with its largest outbreak of measles in nearly 30 years, with 41 confirmed cases reported since April. And most of the cases have occurred among a community of Somali immigrants, which the state health department says have been "targeted" by members of the anti-vaccination movement. 
Minnesota's measles outbreak is the largest outbreak so far this year, and a prime example of the very real consequences of the growing anti-vaccine movement. Prior to 2008, vaccination rates in Minnesota's Somali immigrant community, the largest in the country, had been as high or higher than those in the white population. But in 2008, anti-vaccine activists began holding one-on-one meetings with families, stoking fear among parents that vaccines were contributing to autism in their children. 
Among those meeting with members of the community was Andrew Wakefield, the discredited researcher who launched the anti-vaxxer movement. Two decades ago, he published a study suggesting that a popular vaccine against measles, mumps and rubella could cause autism. Though he lost his medical licence and the study was widely debunked and retracted, he nonetheless built up a following. (Anti-Vaxxers Are Responsible For Minnesota's Horrible Measles Outbreak, GizmodoMay 6, 2017.)
The epidemic is still only in its early stages.
MINNEAPOLIS -- New numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health show the measles outbreak in the state is growing, CBS Minnesota reports. 
There are now 44 cases reported in Minnesota, which is up from 41 on Thursday. The outbreak is primarily in the state's large Somali-American community, where many parents avoid the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine because of unfounded fears that it causes autism. 
All but two of the cases involve unvaccinated patients. ... 
"We're very early in the outbreak," said Dr. Shane McAllister, assistant professor in pediatric infectious disease and immunology at the University of Minnesota's Masonic Children's Hospital. "We're going to be seeing this for a while." (Doctors warn Minnesota measles outbreak still "early" as cases increase, CBS News, May 5, 2017.)
The anti-vaxxers held meetings among this particular group and even invited Andrew Wakefield who published a since discredited study claiming the MMR vaccine cause autism. That study has since been rejected as fraudulent but he is still revered by anti-vaxxers.
[Anti-vaxxers claim that] the MMR vaccine triggers autism, a discredited theory that spread rapidly through the local Somali community, fanned by meetings organized by anti-vaccine groups. The activists repeatedly invited Andrew Wakefield, the founder of the modern anti-vaccine movement, to talk to worried parents. 
Immunization rates plummeted, and last month the first cases of measles appeared. Soon there was a full-blown outbreak, one of the starkest consequences of an intensifying anti-vaccine movement in the United States and around the world that has gained traction in part by targeting specific communities. 
“It’s remarkable to come in and talk to a population that’s vulnerable and marginalized and who doesn’t necessarily have the capacity for advocacy for themselves, and to take advantage of that,” said Siman Nuurali, a Somali American clinician who coordinates the care of medically complex patients at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. “It’s abhorrent.” 
Although extensive research has disproved any relationship between vaccines and autism, the fear has become entrenched in the community. “I don’t know if we will be able to dig out on our own,” Nuurali said. (Anti-vaccine activists spark a state’s worst measles outbreak in decades, Washington Post.)
Measles was declared to be eliminated from the United States at the dawn of the century but as some people chose to not vaccinate their children due to misplaced fears about vaccines measles has returned to the United States.

Some in this community that had been targeted by anti-vaxxers insist that measles is preferable to taking vaccines to immunize against measles.
Fear of autism runs so deep in the Somali community that parents whose children have recently come down with measles insist that measles is preferable to risking autism. (Anti-vaccine activists spark a state’s worst measles outbreak in decades, Washington Post.)
How terrible it is that dangerous misinformation has caused this terrible measles epidemic in Minnesota.

Armstrongism has a long history of promoting anti-medicine superstitions. Far too many people connected to Armstrongism has suffered because of the anti-medicine superstitions HWA and his collaborators promoted. It is terrible that such misinformed views continue to wrack havoc upon vulnerable communities.

Down with anti-vaxxerism! Get vaccinated. Get our children vaccinated.

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