Congratulations, Anti-Vaxxers! You've Won A Shiny New Measles Outbreak In Minnesota!

Everyone's favoritepro-measles propaganda!

Another great achievement for the concerned citizens who are absolutely sure, against all the scientific evidence, that vaccines are bad for children: Children all over Minnesota's Twin Cities are getting sick, hooray! The anti-vaccine movement has been actively propagandizing in Minnesota's Somali immigrant community, and while the community's leaders have been working closely with health officials to encourage parents to vaccinate their kids, activists who think deadly viral infections are a wonderful natural thing have had enough of an impact that plenty of Somali-American parents have avoided vaccinations, and so now there's a measles outbreak.

The Washington Post brings us the depressingly familiar scenario: A young mother, Suuado Salah, was told by friends that vaccines cause autism, so she didn't vaccinate her kids. The anti-vaxxers' message won out, and Salah's 3-year-old son and 18-month-old daughter contracted measles. Thankfully, when her baby daughter developed a high fever, Salah got the baby to a real doctor instead of a homeopathic healer -- the girl was hospitalized for four nights and had to be given intravenous fluids and oxygen, but is expected to recover.

“I thought: ‘I’m in America. I thought I’m in a safe place and my kids will never get sick in that disease,’ ” said Salah, 26, who has lived in Minnesota for more than a decade. Growing up in Somalia, she’d had measles as a child. A sister died of the disease at age 3.

Gee, and we thought Donald Trump was the most dangerous con man endangering new arrivals to America. The more you know, huh?

Minnesota has been targeted by anti-vaxxers, who have brought discredited anti-vaccine huckster Andrew Wakefield to scare parents with bogus tales of the MMR vaccine causing autism. It worked, and immunization rates dropped off rapidly, followed by the measles outbreak -- which the anti-vax crowd think is the best thing ever, because they're quite certain measles and mumps and rubella and even whooping cough are better for children than a vaccination, and that a bit of suffering is probably good for them.

Siman Nuurali, a Somali American clinician with Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, called the anti-vaxxer targeting of Somali immigrants "abhorrent," a deliberate attempt to take advantage of people who are vulnerable to propaganda from nice people who say they want to "help" by spreading fear:

It’s remarkable [they would] 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 [...] I don’t know if we will be able to dig out on our own.

The always-loathsome Andrew Wakefield, who started the vaccine-autism panic years ago with bogus research that has since been repudiated by the British medical journal that published it, says he was just responding to a need, don't you know:

“The Somalis had decided themselves that they were particularly concerned,” Wakefield said last week. “I was responding to that.”

He maintained that he bears no fault for what is now happening within the community: “I don’t feel responsible at all.”

Sociopaths seldom do, do they?

Before the campaign by anti-vaxxers, Somali-American immigrants actually had a higher rate of vaccination than other Americans, but that rate has declined from 92 percent in 2004 to just 42 percent in 2014, according to Minnesota health officials. That's significantly below the 92-94 percent vaccination rate needed to protect communities from measles. Those brave anti-vax activists have to be feeling pretty damn proud of all the sick children in Minnesota now!

There have been 41 cases of measles identified in the current outbreak, all but two of them in unvaccinated people (yes, this is where the to-be-deleted commenters will say "if vaccines work why did anyone get measles after being vaccinated?" because they are idiots who ignore the basics of "herd immunity"). Almost all of the measles cases have been among Somali-Americans in Hennepin County, and more cases are almost certain to follow. If you want a terrifying look at how effective a scare campaign can be, here's a chart tracking vaccination rates in the Somali-American community compared to the general population in Minnesota:

The Washington Post notes that the Internet helped bring the anti-vaxxers into town. a University of Minnesota study in 2008 found that a somewhat higher percentage of Somali-American children were being diagnosed with intellectual disabilities; as parents started looking for information on autism, they started finding anti-vaxxer websites, and anti-vaxxers were more than happy to "help" spread the news that vaccines should be avoided -- even though at the time, Somali and non-Somali kids in Minnesota had similar vaccination rates, which by itself should have been evidence that vaccines weren't responsible for the results of that UM study. And wouldn't you know it, the anti-vaxxers did a terrific job of scaring people out of vaccinating their kids:

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. One father, who did not want his family identified to protect their privacy, sat helplessly by his daughter’s bed at Children’s Minnesota hospital last week as she struggled to breathe during coughing fits.

Aren't you glad Andrew Wakefield is able to sleep peacefully at night? Even in the middle of the measles outbreak, the anti-vax groups continue to hold meetings, scaring people into believing that a potentially deadly virus is preferable to the nonexistent threat of autism. Real doctors who spoke up at the forums were booed.

At least Suaado Salah and her husband, Tahlil Wehlie, have turned their backs on the anti-vax crowd -- once their kids are better, they're both planning to urge their friends and others in the community to vaccinate their children:

“Because when the kids get sick, it’s going to affect everybody. It’s not going to affect only the family who have the sick kid,” she said. “They make sick for everybody. That’s when you wake up and say, ‘Okay, what happened?’ ”

So there's another inspiring story of the American Immigrant Experience: People arrive in a new country, and there are already hucksters ready to take advantage of them. And let their kids get sick, because it's not the anti-vaxxers' responsibility.

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[Wapo / Respectful Insolence]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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