Monday, March 21, 2011

Andrew Wakefield in Twin Cities to Speak to Somali Community

A friend of mine at the Minnesota Department of Health told me that disgraced doctor--and elaborate fraudster--Andrew Wakefield has made his way to the Twin Cities this week to speak to the Somali community about vaccines. He will be speaking at a Somali restaurant. I don't have the address yet, but I will post it when I find out.

Minnesota's measles outbreak has made national news, largely because of the sheer number of infected children (equalling in a single month the total number of measles cases recorded in Minnesota in the last five years) and because the outbreak was started by an unvaccinated child. The story becomes even more layered when you take into account the outbreak is taking place largely in the Somali community at the moment, where vaccination rates are hovering around 30% because of fear of vaccines. This fear has been fanned by people like Wakefield, who was here in December warning parents against vaccines, and Generation Rescue, which sends volunteers into the community as "advocates" but who instead infect worried parents with bogus fears of vaccine danger.

The Minnesota Department of Health may stage a counter-event, but they are very keen to let the leadership within the Somali community lead the way, something Wakefield and Generation Rescue, and other anti-vax folks have not bothered about. There are a number of vocal pediatricians and doctors of Somali descent trying to speak out about this, but I believe this requires a community-wide effort. Very unfortunately, the public health authorities are mistrusted; volunteers from Generation Rescue have told many Somali parents that the Department of Health doesn't care about their children or their concerns. It's time for those of us who vaccinate our kids to step forward and take our place on the front line to combat this, or else more unvaccinated children--including babies too young to be immunized--fall seriously ill, or die.

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