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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Minnesota, Somalis, Vaccines, and Dysfunction

At The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Dan Browning writes about dysfunction on Minnesota's Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force:
Brad Trahan, a parent from Rochester, chaired the group until he resigned in June 2013, writing to House Speaker Paul Thissen that he could no longer tolerate what he called false allegations and complaints filed against him by Idil Abdull — the task force member who nominated him for the job.
Abdull, of Burnsville, founded the Somali American Autism Foundation. Both she and Trahan have children diagnosed with autism, and both have become tireless advocates for families affected by the disorder.

In an interview, Abdull said she opposed the [insurance mandate] bill because it did nothing for poor children, many of whom are on Medicaid, and did not apply to self-insured health plans run by many large employers. “Every child should be on the same bus at the same time for the same thing — otherwise, we don’t approve it,” Abdull said.
Abdull also parted ways with her colleagues over a $300,000, grant application by the state Health Department to help pay for autism services. The task force voted to endorse the grant, and Trahan wrote a letter of support stipulating that the money should be distributed in a way that reaches “the underserved communities with the most disparities (Native American, Somali, Hmong, African-American, Rural, Hispanic).”
That failed to satisfy Abdull. “Unless you put a specific dollar sign, support could be $2,” she said. “I wanted specific dollars … going into minority-based organizations. They’re going to do the legwork of going into communities of color.”\
The rancor has stung several other task force members, including Barb Dalbec, who manages the Health Department’s section for children with special needs. Abdull called her a “village idiot,” and has demanded that she be fired. Dalbec declined to comment, and a department spokesman said a complaint filed against Dalbec was closed without any disciplinary actions; records also show that Dalbec received a state award for leadership this year.
Matt Carey writes at Left Brain/Right Brain:
Autism in the U.S. Somali Community has gathered significant attention in recent years (as has autism in other Somali communities outside of Somalia, for example in Sweden). Most of the attention in the U.S. can be traced back to vigorous advocacy by people like my fellow IACC public member Idil Abdul. Not all attention is good. For example, Minnesota Somali parents received a lot of attention from groups promoting the failed vaccine/autism link. When news of the possibly high prevalence in the Minnesota Somali community arose, David Kirby used the story to promote the idea of vaccines causing autism.Generation Rescue brought in Andrew Wakefield to talk to Somali parents in closed door meetings.
With the discussion of vaccines and autism comes fear and with fear of vaccines comes a reduced uptake. One recent story reports that the MMR uptake in the Minnesota Somali community dropped from 90% to 54% in the past 10 years. Sadly, that same story discusses how the Minnesota Somali community is presently involved in one of the largest measles outbreaks in recent history.
The question is, what are the views of the Somali community on vaccines and autism? To answer that, a new study has just been released: Childhood vaccine beliefs reported by somali and non-somali parents. (note the lack of capitalization of Somali is in the original). The full paper is available online ... To answer the question–yes, Somalis in Minnesota do think that the MMR causes autism more than their non-Somali counterparts. Nearly 5 times more likely. But, the majority do not believe–about 35% of Somali parents and 8% of non-Somali parents believe that autism is caused by vaccines