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Minnesota's Measles Outbreak Underscores US Vaccine Uptake Issue: Public Health Watch Report

The measles outbreak in Minnesota may officially be over, but the pesky issue of noncompliance with pediatric vaccination recommendations continues to, well, plague some communities across the country—with potentially troubling consequences.

As Contagion® reported last week, a measles outbreak in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” that affected 79 individuals, the vast majority of whom (73) were under 10 years of age, has been declared over by public health officials there, although not before those same officials made it clear what caused the problem in the first place: poor uptake of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, particularly among children in the state’s large Somali-American population. Indeed, when the outbreak was first identified in April 2017, it was noted that more than half of the cases involved children from that very community. Overall, according to officials in Minnesota, only 42% of Somali-American 2-year-olds in the state receive the MMR vaccine (as recently as 2004, vaccination rates within the community were as high as 92%).

Interestingly, the reluctance of some Somali-American parents to have their children vaccinated against measles has been attributed to a campaign by anti-vaccine activists. These activists, some say, have taken steps to convince Somali-American parents that there are links between MMR prophylaxis and the onset of autism in young children, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. The anti-vaccine movement has gained new traction in 2017, thanks at least partially to reports that Robert F. Kennedy, one of its leading activists, could chair a special committee on “vaccine safety and scientific integrity.”

However, neither the appointment, nor the committee itself, has ever come to pass, perhaps due to widespread opposition.

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