In The Politics of Autism, I look at the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism.
About six years ago, a Texas resident visited Minnesota three times to talk with its Somali community. Not just any Texas resident: This was Andrew Wakefield, the doctor disgraced for his fraudulent 1998 study claiming a connection between autism and the measles vaccine.
Dozens of studies have since proven Wakefield wrong, but scientific fact hasn’t stopped him from continuing to spread harm.
That harm is very real and obvious today. Continued targeting of Minnesota’s Somali community led the vaccination rate to plummet by more than half, to 42 percent, in 2014. And recently, 69 Minnesotans, most of them young children, most of them Somali, almost all of them unvaccinated, fell sick with measles.
Texas is, unfortunately, one of the strongholds of anti-vaccine sentiment, perhaps not surprising considering Wakefield lives in our midst. State lawmakers have refused to take even the most basic steps to fend off a Minnesota-like scenario. Bills died this legislative session that would have allowed parents to view the vaccination rates at individual public schools — would you want your child attending a school with a 42 percent immunization rate? — and that would have had parents take a simple online course to educate them about immunization before they could send their children to school unvaccinated.