May 12, 2017 — The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed that an outbreak of measles has infected at least 54 children under 10 years old, with 87% of cases in Somali-American children.
Until recently, Somali children in Minnesota had vaccination rates as high as their peers. That all changed in 2008, when health officials confirmed that up to 7-times more Somali children were enrolled in autism pre-school programs.
In 2010, a study from the University of Minnesota found that 1 in 32 Somali children aged 7-9 years old in Minneapolis had autism, or double the overall risk of about 1 in 68 children in the United States.
Somali children were also far more likely to have the severest forms of autism, with greater intellectual disability than all other racial groups.
Andrew Wakefield, the former doctor who proposed a link between MMR vaccine and autism, spoke to the community at least twice.
Now many parents of Somali children in Minnesota delay the 1st dose of the MMR vaccine that is normally given at 12-15 months, leaving young children vulnerable to infection during outbreaks. Only 41% of children in the 24-35 month age range have received MMR vaccines.
The MMR vaccine has been in use since 1971, but controversy began in 1998 when Wakefield published a debunked research paper in The Lancet claiming to show a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.
The study was retracted by The Lancet because parts of it were falsified. Wakefield was stripped of his medical license in 2010 for acting “dishonestly and irresponsibly” and not in the best interest of patients. He moved to Texas to continue his anti-vaccine campaign.
Concerns about the link between MMR and autism persist. Donald Trump even suggested that vaccines cause autism, tweeting in March 2014:
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014
Exhaustive scientific research has concluded that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. In 2014, an analysis of 10 different studies involving data on 1.2 million children did not find any relationship between vaccination and autism, mercury, or thimerosal.
Even so, it is understandable for parents to be worried. There are some proactive measures parents to reduce the risk of side effects.
For example, vaccinate your child in the morning so you can watch for any adverse reactions. It may also be a good idea to give the child a dose of Tylenol (acetaminophen) 30 minutes before vaccination to reduce any fever that might develop.
Parents who notice a significant change in their child’s cognitive function and behavior after vaccination should seek emergency medical attention and report it to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.