Somalis Fall for Anti-Vaccine Malarkey, Measles Ensue in Minnesota

Even Somali immigrants can fall for Trumpy anti-science malarkey… which in this case is causing a measles outbreak in Minnesota:

In Minnesota, the vast majority of children under age 2 get vaccinated against measles. But state health officials said most Somali-American 2-year-olds have not had the vaccine, about 6 out of 10. As the outbreak spreads, that statistic worries health officials, including Michael Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

“It is a highly concentrated number of unvaccinated people,” he said. “It is a potential kind of gas-and-match situation.”

…Somali community leaders are in lockstep with the Minnesota Department of Health, trying to knock down the pseudoscience behind the myth that vaccines can lead to autism. But others are not, even as the outbreak spreads.

A weekend meeting in Minneapolis organized by anti-vaccine groups attracted dozens of Somali-Americans. Some shouted down physicians, including pediatrician Stacene Maroushek, who showed up to try to convince them vaccinations are critical to their community.

“We know if there’s less than a certain rate of vaccine, the virus is much more likely to spread,” she said. “That’s a scientific fact” [Mark Zdechlik, “Unfounded Autism Fears Are Fueling Minnesota’s Measles Outbreak,” MPR News, 2017.05.03].

Wherever you are from, whatever language you speak, get it through your thick skulls: Vaccines don’t cause autismTalaalku ma keeni autism. اللقاحات لا تسبب التوحد.

Vaccines are good for all Americans, new and old. Get your shots.


11 Responses to Somalis Fall for Anti-Vaccine Malarkey, Measles Ensue in Minnesota

  1. Ben Cerwinske

    Even if the vaccine did cause autism in some people, wouldn’t it still be worth the risk? Autism in a few or measles for many? Get the measles sounds terrible, but autism doesn’t have to be.

  2. Autism doesn’t infect others, doesn’t kill people… and hey! Trump says he’s going to cure autism anyway!

    But let’s not confuse our new neighbors. Shots are good. They prevent disease. They don’t cause autism.

    Get your shots.
    Hel tallaallada aad.
    الحصول على اللقاحات الخاصة بك.
    (I sure hope Google Translate is getting that right!

  3. Nikki Miller

    I appreciate your progressive voice in SoDak but you should read up more on this issue, as it is much more complex than chalking it up to Trump/anti-science (though he is, I don’t believe it applies here). Somali communities have myriad reasons for decreased vaccination rates, ranging from aforementioned concerns about side effects to the lesser-mentioned cultural views of disease and prevention (which, hello, are going to be different from the American white mainstream in many cases), to concerns over porcine gelatin in the vaccines (not readily compatible with religious practices) or the impact of refugee resettlement on vaccination scheduling and access to ongoing care. But all that aside, what was particularly troubling to me about your post was the use of the phrase “thick skulls,” which can be a racist and divisive way of talking about cultural difference. I am 100% pro-vaccine, but urge you to more carefully consider your choices of words and examine cultural contexts and differences in the future, since demonizing people in this way does none of us any good.

  4. I’m not demonizing anyone. I am saying that denying science is a bad idea for personal and public health. There’s no cultural viewpoint that makes measles a good public health outcome. Shouting down doctors is a sign of a thick skull.

    No excuses. Shots are good for everybody. Get your shots.

  5. I live in MN and I agree with Nikki’s reasons for Somalis not getting the vaccine. I would like to add that I think there can be (but not in all circumstances) a language barrier also and I definitely think more education is needed to stress the possibility of disease if your child does not get vaccinations.
    (I did not think the ‘thick skulls’ came off as racist, Cory. That’s my opinion, and speaking of racism, my daughter says I’m racist when I mention ‘black’ person when describing someone. I really don’t think it is. What are these MN public schools teaching her! ;)

  6. Mr. H can a tree times be an intolerant clod who shows little to no cultural sensitivity and inclusiveness, but here he is righter than right

  7. mike from iowa

    Maybe citizens should be allowed concealed/carry vaccines to administer to anyone they feel threatened by. You’d never see most pols in public again.

  8. mike from iowa

    Pardon the interruption, but thick skulls is a general mild put down without racial connotations. It has, as far back as I can remember, been used to suggest someone that is hardheaded and refuses to learn from past mistakes. But that is just me.

  9. Sign at the science march: Vaccines Create Humans.
    Darwin’s law, baby. Let the anti-vax folks get what they want – then there will be fewer of them. There is no need to perpetuate stupidity – we have plenty of that enough among SD voters.

  10. Folks who don’t get their shots may have a number of reasons. If those reasons are based on superstition and bogus anti-science rumors, they need to get over them. If they have religious reasons, they need to think long and hard about whether their deity really wants them to pose a public health risk to everyone else. In most cases, public health should trump cultural concerns… or, more appropriately, cultures should place public health near the top of their priorities.

    John, I’d let Darwin rule, but unfortunately, anti-vaxers put other people beyond themselves at risk.

  11. John, Cory is right that other people are at risk. There are allergies or immune compromised people that simply cannot receive a vaccine.

    Another scary thing about measles is that it is airborne so it is spread more easily then other diseases. Children aren’t vaccinated with the MMR until 12-15 months so they need those in the community to be vaccinated to keep them safe.

    I watched at PBS Frontline documentary on those against vaccinating there kids. It tends to be richer, whiter, better educated who are against the shots. The interviews were people living on the west coast if I remember correctly. So this isn’t poor people on Medicaid not taking there kids in (not that Cory is suggesting this); only that it was sort of surprising who weren’t believers.