In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.
As of Monday, there were 48 confirmed cases of the highly contagious — and potentially deadly — infection, all but two in children under the age of 10. Of the sick, 45 had not been vaccinated against measles. And 41 of the patients are Somali Minnesotans.
[Fatuma] Ishtar, a community outreach worker in Minneapolis, blames the anti-vaccination lobby. “They are everywhere. Like, every event, every forum,” she said. “They continue to push the community. I feel offended by this group.”
Michael Osterholm, former state epidemiologist, goes further. Actually, he uses the verb “exploit.”
“What they say is, ‘Remember, measles is just a five-to-seven-day disease. Autism is forever,'” he said. Osterholm, however, knows the dangers of measles. He was the state epidemiologist in 1990, when Minnesota had a large measles outbreak — 460 cases in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Three children died.Christopher Mele reports at The New York Times:
Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said anti-vaccine activists had met one-on-one with families and had been more aggressive than public health educators in getting their message out.
Though the medical research has debunked the connection of vaccines to autism, the notion is deeply rooted in the community, Mr. Noor said on Friday, adding that the “main fight” was combating that perception.
The Washington Post reported Friday that the fear was so entrenched that parents in the community believe the risk of measles is preferable. The Post reported that one of the anti-vaccine movement’s founders, Andrew Wakefield, was among those who had met with the parents. Asked if he felt at fault for the outbreak, he replied: “I don’t feel responsible at all,” according to The Post.
In 2014, the United States had a record number of measles cases — 667 — since the disease was thought to have been eliminated in 2000. Nearly 400 of them occurred in unvaccinated Amish communities in Ohio.