Even as health officials in Minnesota attempt to counter the measles outbreak, which is worsening in the state, their efforts to educate the public are facing a setback. Anti-vaccine activists in the state have started advocating that the measles vaccine being administered may not be safe.
On April 28, state health officials claimed that the total number of people affected by measles had increased to 32. Among these cases, 31 were located in the Hennepin County, while a single case was confirmed in the neighboring Stearns County.
The current outbreak is mostly centered on the Somali-Minnesotan community in Hennepin County. Health officials determined that this is because most children in the community have not received their measles vaccinations. This lack of vaccination was due to the community's belief that the measles vaccine caused autism in children.
What The Anti-Vaccine Activists Claim
The activists will hold a meeting on Sunday, April 30, in the Brian Coyle Community Center in Minneapolis to spread the message "epidemic is autism, not measles".
The activists also posit that the state's health department was withholding information regarding the safety of the vaccines. They assert that Somali parents have the right to refuse the measles vaccination for their children if they so please.
These anti-vaccine activists also appeared in various forums the state's health department has developed and shared that Somali children are being forcefully vaccine-damaged.
"We are looking to educate Somalis on their rights regarding vaccine law. And to help them make informed decisions about whether they want to vaccinate their kids," Patti Carroll, a member of the Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota said.
What Are Doctors Saying?
Health officials have noticed a sharp decline in the vaccination rate in the Somali-Minnesotan community. This led them to surmise that most people were concerned with the fact that administering the measles vaccine would possibly cause autism in children.
To debunk the fears, public officials have been trying to convince and educate the Somali community on the benefits of the vaccine. They attempted to educate the worried parents on the findings of previous studies, which have been unable to find a link between the measles vaccine and autism. However, this approach was unsuccessful in changing many parents' mindset and failed to debunk the myth of measles vaccines causing autism.
The health officials in Minnesota are trying a new approach. They are currently in conversation with Somali-Minnesota community leaders to make them aware of the risks associated with not administering proper vaccines in children.
"We know that this is a complicated issue that is going to take long-term efforts," Lynn Bahta, an immunization consultant with the Minnesota Health Department revealed.
It remains to be seen whether the state's health department is able to make ground with the community members.