Call it the million-dollar lie: Minnesotans are finding how costly it can be to allow vaccination foes to spread counter-factual misinformation in vulnerable populations. Doing so has helped fuel one of the North Star state’s worst recent outbreaks of measles among international refugees in the Twin Cities area. The highly contagious infection has swept through the state’s sizable community of Somali immigrants, felling several dozen children, most younger than 10 and all but two un-immunized.
Public health officials blame the disease’s surge, which they say has not peaked yet and has resulted in kids sick enough to need hospitalization, on anti-vaxxers’ exploitation of immigrants’ uninformed fears about American medicine, particularly modern science’s inability to explain precisely what causes autism.
To be crystal clear, no evidence or science ties vaccines to autism. But almost a decade ago, shortly after the government, churches, and nonprofits helped many Somalis—who were fleeing famine and strife in their native African nation and resettling legally in Minnesota—a public health scare erupted. The newcomers feared then that disproportionate numbers of their children were showing signs they were autistic. Health officials investigated and found no higher incidence of the developmental disorder.