Anti-vaccine activists spark a state’s worst measles outbreak in decades

May 9, 2017

By Lena H. Sun

The young mother started getting advice early on from friends in the close-knit Somali immigrant community here. Don’t let your children get the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella — it causes autism, they said.

Suaado Salah listened. And this spring, her 3-year-old boy and 18-month-old girl contracted measles in Minnesota’s largest outbreak of the highly infectious and potentially deadly disease in nearly three decades. Her daughter, who had a rash, high fever and cough, was hospitalized for four nights and needed intravenous fluids and oxygen.

“I thought: ‘I’m in America. I thought I’m in a safe place and my kids will never get sick in that disease,’ ” said Salah, 26, who has lived in Minnesota for more than a decade. Growing up in Somalia, she’d had measles as a child. A sister died of the disease at age 3.

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14 comments on “Anti-vaccine activists spark a state’s worst measles outbreak in decades

  • ‘OP – Salah no longer believes that the MMR vaccine triggers autism, a discredited theory that spread rapidly through the local Somali community, fanned by meetings organized by anti-vaccine groups.
    The activists repeatedly invited Andrew Wakefield, the founder of the modern anti-vaccine movement, to talk to worried parents.

    Yep! This corrupt rogue doctor – (stuck off and banned in the UK for faking his research, and corruptly denigrating the triple MMR vaccine in the hope of profit from his financial interest in a competitor product), was welcomed by the US conspiracy and quackery industry, and allowed to make more money from fraudulent activities, as he posed as a reputable competent doctor or lecture tours!

    He really ought to sued under a class action for $millions!

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  • Interesting that apparently Somali community have some bigotry against Autism? This mother had a sister who died of measles and still would risk the death of her own child over having a child with Autism?

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  • Reckless

    Interesting that apparently Somali community have some bigotry against Autism?

    In communities that are still deeply entrenched in tribal values and that have very little understanding of science in general and medical science specifically then superstition rules when they try to understand these medical disasters such as measles and autism. I think we can understand this if we look at how the West has handled autism in just a few decades of the past. Until recently, the mentally retarded, autistic and Down’s syndrome individuals were feared and hidden away in institutions supposedly for everyone’s good – as it was explained back then.

    Now as we begin to understand the origin of these conditions and create new therapies to soften the effects of them we can hopefully integrate these kids and adults into the schools and communities to maximum degree. Their visibility in the community will allow all of us to know them and include them as one of us.

    From a superstitious (religious) point of view, these autistic, etc. kids and adults are a frightening mystery. When an all powerful God gives someone a child with Down’s or autism or any other obvious “defect” then because the origin of the medical condition is unknown to them, they must conclude that God willed it to be so. It’s bad enough that they have no way to deal with the condition presented in their child but on top of that, if it’s perceived as a punishment from God then this is a fearful and daunting situation for the entire extended family.

    While living in Algeria in the past I was often knocked flat by episodes of food poisoning and when this happened I silently wondered if my illness was the result of some tainted food that I ate or was it a virus that I had contracted from someone around me. But that’s not what the Algerians were pondering. They were trying to figure out who had reason to be jealous of me to the degree that they took action to inflict the evil eye on me with all of it’s frightening power to do harm. A protective magic spell was employed as a remedy.

    Do you see what we’re dealing with here? And that’s just for a simple case of an illness, whatever it’s cause actually was, that had immobilized me with the usual symptoms. What would they think of a grave affliction such as serious physical deformities or Down’s or autism?

    Based on what we know about infanticide in all of our societies now and in the past, infants that were judged as having any noticeable physical imperfections were at high risk of death by some method of infanticide. This still remains as an acceptable reason for abortion today. We have a prenatal test for Down’s syndrome available to us and if that test comes up as positive for Down’s then we have the opportunity to abort that fetus if we decide that we don’t want to continue with that pregnancy.

    Even in the present day, the idea of raising a disabled child has a major impact on the future of that mother and everyone else in the extended family. This is not lost on those Somalis who are frightened of bringing the condition on their own child by presenting them for a vaccination. Death of a child from sickness or physical deformity is not uncommon in traditional societies, excruciatingly sad as it is. After the mourning period and all of it’s rituals, they will try again and as their God wills it, have another child with the hope that it will be of sound constitution and have the luck and blessings to make it to adulthood.

    I believe this is all part of the calculation that goes into the current Somali community when they refuse the vaccinations. My child, if they contract measles, will live or die as God wills it but if they live they will be stronger for it and go on to have a “normal” life. But if they have the shot and come to be afflicted with autism then it’s a life sentence for the child and everyone around them. For any adult who has no ability to understand risk/benefit analyses, this is too frightening a prospect to even be considered. At least the Somali immigrants have some real memories of what these diseases look like in reality and are afraid of the consequences that they bring. Our American anti-vaxers have no real memory of knowing anyone who had measles, etc. at all but they might very well know someone who is on the autism spectrum and this is a big part of what fears they are dealing with when they decide to opt out on their own kid’s vaccination series.

    I am not defending the anti-vaxers position, just trying to understand the formidable forces behind it. If we don’t understand deep motivations for behavior then we can’t alter the behavior.

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  • LaurieB #3
    May 10, 2017 at 10:21 am

    From a superstitious (religious) point of view, these autistic, etc. kids and adults are a frightening mystery.

    It looks like definitive refutations of anti-vaxxer claims will be strengthened even more shortly!

    Baby brain scans reveal trillions of neural connections

    UK scientists have released the first batch of “groundbreaking” medical scans that reveal step-by-step how the human brain develops in babies.

    Researchers around the world can use the data to understand what healthy growth looks like, say the Developing Human Connectome Project experts.

    The detailed MRI scans could also improve understanding of conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy.

    Their plan is to scan many more newborns, as well as babies still growing in the womb.

    Then they will create a dynamic map of human brain connectivity.

    Prof Edwards said: “Having lots of data will mean we can study what is normal and abnormal in terms of brain development.

    “We can start to answer important questions, like what happens to the brain when babies are born prematurely or how does the brain develop differently in children with autism.”

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  • Meanwhile – where scientific research and mainstream medicine is taken seriously:-
    The government in Italy has ruled that children must be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enrol for state-run schools.

    Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni blamed a decrease in vaccinations in part on a “spread of anti-scientific theories”.

    Italy has recorded nearly three times as many measles cases so far this year than for all of 2016.

    If children are not vaccinated by the age of six, the school starting age, their parents will be fined.

    Conspiracy theories about the health risks of certain vaccinations – largely based on one discredited paper – have circulated around the world, leading some parents to shun immunisation.

    In Italy, the number of two-year-olds vaccinated against measles has dropped from more than 90% to below 80%. This is well short of the World Health Organization’s recommended coverage of 95% or more.

    Measles is highly contagious and can lead to death.

    “The lack of appropriate measures over the years and the spread of anti-scientific theories, especially in recent months, has brought about a reduction in protection,” Mr Gentiloni told a press conference on Friday.

    The twelve conditions children must be immunised against are:

    hepatitis B
    haemophilus influenzae B
    meningitis B
    meningitis C
    whooping cough

    “We are sending a very strong message to the public,” said Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin.

    In recent years a loose group of campaigners against vaccinations, dubbed the ‘anti-vax’ movement, has dissuaded people from opting in to immunisations by citing supposed risks.

    A long-discredited paper by Andrew Wakefield was behind much of the scare but the rumours around immunisation have continued to spread, leading to public health risks as not enough people are immune to such diseases.

    Mr Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register after fraudulently claiming there was a link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) and autism and bowel disease in children.

    He made the claim based on the experiences of just 12 children, and no other study since has been able to replicate his results.

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  • @#7 – The government in Italy has ruled that children must be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enrol for state-run schools.

    ..and the anti-vaxxer nuts have responded!

    A group of German-speaking parents in northern Italy are so angry about a new requirement to get their children vaccinated that they plan to seek asylum in nearby Austria.

    The 130 families live in Alto Adige – also known as South Tyrol – a region that was part of Austria before 1919.

    Last month the Italian government ruled that children must be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enrol for state-run schools.

    Cases of measles have risen in Italy.

    The highly-contagious sickness is fatal in some cases. Some other European countries, including France and Romania, have also seen more measles cases this year.

    In some parts of Europe, including Italy, vaccination rates have dropped below those recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

    The leader of the South Tyrol protest, Reinhold Holzer, said the group had sent protest messages to Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, and the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    “We won’t allow our children to be poisoned. Asylum is claimed not just by people fleeing war, but also by people whose rights are being violated,” said Mr Holzer, quoted by Austria’s Der Standard daily.

    Trentino-Alto Adige, a mountainous Alpine region, is reported to have one of the highest vaccine refusal rates in Italy.

    In an interview with Radio Südtirol Mr Holzer alleged that some chemicals in vaccines were risky, and said parents should have a free choice about child immunisations, as in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

    However, Germany recently announced plans to fine parents who failed to get medical advice about immunising their child.

    Mr Holzer voiced concern about Thiomersal (or Thimerosal), a mercury-based preservative used in some vaccines, and about genetically engineered vaccines.

    The UK National Health Service says Thiomersal is not used in child vaccines – and adds that it poses no risk anyway.

    Conspiracy theories about the health risks of certain vaccinations – largely based on one discredited paper – have spread on the internet, prompting some parents to shun immunisation.

    I doubt if they will qualify for political asylum – but these parents may qualify for a place in a medical institution! 🙂

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  • @#8 – Last month the Italian government ruled that children must be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses
    before they can enrol for state-run schools.

    A group of German-speaking parents in northern Italy
    are so angry about a new requirement to get their children vaccinated
    that they plan to seek asylum in nearby Austria.

    There are of course consequences arising from this sort of stupidity!

    Thirty-five people have died in the past year from measles outbreaks across Europe, the World Health Organization has warned.

    It described the deaths – which can be prevented with vaccination – as an “unacceptable tragedy”.

    A six-year-old boy in Italy was the latest to die from the infection.
    More than 3,300 measles cases have been recorded in the country.

    The most fatalities – 31 – have been in Romania.

    But there have also been deaths in Germany and Portugal since June 2016.

    Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO regional director for Europe, said: “Every death or disability caused by this vaccine-preventable disease is an unacceptable tragedy.

    “We are very concerned that although a safe, effective and affordable vaccine is available, measles remains a leading cause of death among children worldwide, and unfortunately Europe is not spared.

    “I urge all endemic countries to take urgent measures to stop transmission of measles within their borders, and all countries that have already achieved this to keep up their guard and sustain high immunisation coverage.”

    Measles is highly contagious, but vaccinating 95% of the population should prevent it spreading.

    Germany is looking at tightening the law on immunisations.

    And the government in Italy is pushing for children to be vaccinated against 12 common illnesses before they can enrol for state-run schools.

    Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni blamed a decrease in vaccinations in part on a “spread of anti-scientific theories”.

    A lingering false belief that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) jab causes autism is largely to blame, despite the claims being disproven and the doctor who made them being struck off.

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  • So while anti-vaxxers are spreading disinformation and disease, science researchers are developing innovative ways of creating vaccines:-

    ** Plants have been “hijacked” to make polio vaccine in a breakthrough with the potential to transform vaccine manufacture, say scientists.**

    The team at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk, says the process is cheap, easy and quick.

    As well as helping eliminate polio, the scientists believe their approach could help the world react to unexpected threats such as Zika virus or Ebola.

    Experts said the achievement was both impressive and important.

    The vaccine is an “authentic mimic” of poliovirus called a virus-like particle.

    Outwardly it looks almost identical to poliovirus but – like the difference between a mannequin and person – it is empty on the inside.

    It has all the features needed to train the immune system, but none of the weapons to cause an infection.
    Leafy factory

    The scientists hijacked a relative of the tobacco plant’s metabolism to turn its leaves into polio-vaccine “factories”.

    First, they needed to create new instructions for the plant to follow.

    The starting material was the genetic code for making the outer surface of poliovirus.

    It was enhanced by combining it with material from viruses that naturally infect plants.

    The new instructions were then put into soil bacteria, which were used to infect tobacco.

    The infection took hold, the plants read the genetic instructions and started making the virus-like particles.

    Infected leaves were mixed with water, blended, and the polio vaccine was extracted.

    The virus-like particles prevented polio in animal experiments, and an analysis of their 3D structure showed they looked almost identical to poliovirus.

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  • Some countries at least, are curtailing the activities of these dangerous deluded idiots!

    A US author who bills himself as the “world’s #1 anti-vaxxer” has been denied a visa to enter Australia for a speaking tour.

    Kent Heckenlively had planned to visit Australia in December to call for a five-year ban on vaccinations.

    Medical experts, including the World Health Organization, have repeatedly said that vaccinations are safe and vital to halting infectious diseases.

    Australia gave bans to two other anti-vaccination advocates last month.

    Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that Mr Heckenlively would not be allowed to enter Australia, describing anti-vaccination advocates as “dangerous people”.

    “It is clear to me that it is not in our national interest that he should come here,” Mr Dutton told local radio station 2GB.

    Last month, British anti-vaccination campaigner Polly Tommey and Suzanne Humphreys from the US were banned from entering Australia for three years.

    They had claimed a link between a vaccine and autism, an idea which has been overwhelmingly discredited by science.

    Earlier this year, Australia it would consider a childcare ban – dubbed a “no jab, no play” law – on children who had not been vaccinated.

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  • It looks like good progress is being made in countries where there are good scientific education systems, although there is still some work to be done!

    The percentage of children getting their first dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) by their fifth birthday has reached 95% for the first time, NHS data shows.

    This meets a World Health Organization target. Coverage has been increasing in England for the past 10 years.

    The NHS says children should have two doses of the vaccine before starting school.

    But only 87.6% had received both doses by their fifth birthday.

    The MMR vaccine is given on the NHS as a single injection to babies as part of their routine vaccination schedule, usually within a month of their first birthday.

    They should then have a second injection of the vaccine before starting school, usually at three years and four months.

    Figures published by NHS Digital show that coverage of the first MMR vaccine by the age of five was 85.9% in 2006-07, rising every year to 95% in 2016-17.

    However, the percentage of children being vaccinated with the first dose by their second birthday has gone down for the third year in a row, to 91.6%.

    MMR vaccination rates dipped after a panic caused by discredited former doctor Andrew Wakefield,

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  • It is about time children were protected from the delusional “beliefs”!

    A mother in the US state of Michigan has been sentenced to seven days in jail after she refused a judge’s order to have her son vaccinated.

    Rebecca Bredow refused to let her nine-year-old be immunised after initially agreeing with the father to do so.

    Her ex-husband has now been awarded temporary primary custody in order to get the boy the jab.

    Michigan parents are legally allowed to skip or delay their children’s vaccinations due to personal beliefs.

    But Bredow fell foul of the law because she reneged on agreements with her former spouse dating back to November 2016 to have the boy immunised.

    The mother-of-two was sentenced on Wednesday for contempt of court after flouting a court order last week to have her son vaccinated.

    She and her ex-husband decided at the time of their child’s birth that they would space out and delay jabs for their son.

    The couple separated in 2008, according to ABC News, but they shared parental custody and the father still wanted the boy vaccinated.

    Oakland County Court Judge Karen McDonald said that even though Bredow was the child’s primary caregiver: “Dad gets a say.”

    Bredow, from the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, said in court on Wednesday: “I am an educated vaccine-choice mother.”

    She argued in court that to immunise her son “goes against my beliefs”.

    “I would rather sit behind bars standing up for what I believe in, than giving in to something I strongly don’t believe in,” Bredow added.

    So be it!! – Obviously an ignoramus and a slow learner!

    Anti-vaccination advocates – whose claims have been widely debunked by the medical community – fear the procedure exposes children to harm, and could be the cause of autism.

    Child immunisation rates in Michigan are among the worst in the nation, ranking 43rd among the 50 US states, according to Mlive.

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  • Meanwhile – quackery is not acceptable in Scotland!

    An optician who claims to be able to treat the vision of people with autism and brain injuries using coloured filters has been struck off.

    Ian Jordan works in Ayr but has seen thousands of patients from across the UK and abroad.

    He claims he has been able to transform the lives of patients with a range of visual problems by using tinted lenses.

    But the General Optical Council has now “erased” him from its register of dispensing opticians.

    Experts say there is evidence that tinted lenses can help treat specific problems including migraines and reading difficulties.

    But that those who claim the lenses can do more are bringing the profession into disrepute.

    In its determination, the GOC’s Fitness to Practice committee said removing Mr Jordan from the register was the only sanction that would be sufficient to protect patients.

    It said he had shown “disregard for his professional colleagues” and had an “inflated and unwarranted confidence in his own professional abilities”.

    The determination said he had “disregard for the scope of his practice and the potential risks to patients”.

    It said there had been “repeated and persistent departures from professional standards” and that despite his best intentions “there had been potential for harm to patients as a result of deliberate conduct”.

    It added that there had been “a series of abuses of patients’ trust and their rights to be informed and involved in their treatments”.

    There are about 30,000 registered opticians in the UK and last year seven were struck off.

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