What does a measles outbreak in Minnesota have to do with the health of Texas? Quite a lot, actually. It was a Texan—disgraced one-time researcher Andrew Wakefield, stripped of his medical license because of his false and fraudulently produced claim that the measles vaccine is linked to autism—who visited Minnesota to persuade parents in the Somali community that they could prevent autism in their children by foregoing the vaccine.
Wakefield continues to spread his toxic advice here in his home state as well.
And increasing numbers of Texas parents are listening to this and other false messages about immunization, and seeking exemptions to the state’s vaccination requirements. This spring, new legislation would have made it even easier to gain those exemptions, a further threat to our children’s health and to those those in the community with whom they come in contact. Fortunately, the bill to do that was rejected.
The Immunization Partnership wanted to make the public here in Texas aware of the terrible consequences of failure to vaccinate. Some 75 people in Minnesota have been stricken, according to the most updated figures, with more than 20 hospitalized. Almost all of the cases were in unvaccinated children.
So, Lindy McGee, chair of TIP’s advocacy committee , wrote this op-ed to raise awareness here of how quickly an anti-vaccination campaign can produce very bad consequences. Her article appeared this week in the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News.
About six years ago, a Texas resident visited Minnesota three times to talk with its Somali community. Not just any Texas resident: This was Andrew Wakefield, the doctor disgraced for his widely condemned 1998 study claiming a connection between autism and the measles vaccine. Dozens of studies have since proven Wakefield wrong, but scientific fact hasn't stopped him from continuing to spread harm.
That harm is very real and obvious today. Minnesota's Somali community saw its vaccination rate plummet by more than half, to 42 percent in 2014. And recently, 69 Minnesotans, most of them young children, most of them Somali, almost all of them unvaccinated, had fallen sick with measles.
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