One young mother got advice from many of her friends in a close-knit immigrant community in Minnesota before the birth of her first child. Many experienced mothers told her not to get her children vaccinated for certain illnesses such as rubella, mumps, or the measles, as they believed it causes autism.
Suaado Salah took their advice, and this year her young son and daughter, 3 and 18 months respectively, contracted the measles during Minnesota’s biggest outbreak of the infectious and potentially fatal disease in almost 30 years.
Her daughter obtained a rash and high fever in addition to a cough, and had to be hospitalized for 4 days.
“I thought: ‘I’m in America. I thought I’m in a safe place and my kids will never get sick in that disease,’ ” Salah, 26, stated. As she had grown up in Somalia, she contracted measles as a child. One of her siblings died of the illness at only 3 years old.
Immunization numbers severely plummeted, and in the past month, the first few cases appeared. It soon led to an entire outbreak.
“It’s remarkable to come in and talk to a population that’s vulnerable and marginalized and who doesn’t necessarily have the capacity for advocacy for themselves, and to take advantage of that,” Siman Nuurali, one Somali American clinician said. “It’s abhorrent.”
Even though extensive research disproves the alleged relationship between autism and vaccines, the fear of the disorder grows in the community.
“I don’t know if we will be able to dig out on our own,” said Nuurali.
“The Somalis had decided themselves that they were particularly concerned,” Wakefield stated last week. “I was responding to that.”
He believes that he has no responsibility in what is currently occurring in the community.
“I don’t feel responsible at all.”