Somali parents understandably have decided not to give their child the MMR vaccine based on their experiences. In 2007 the MMR rate of vaccinated two year olds for Somali children was 84% and non-Somali children was 88%. But in 2008 rate in the Somali community dropped to 70%, and by 2012 it was 46%.[vii] In 2017, the rate is 42%.
In April of 2017, measles cases appeared in Minnesota, primarily in the Somali community, primarily in unvaccinated individuals but with some cases in the vaccinated population. The health care community is reaching out and educating parents about measles, how to identify measles, and how to take good care of children contracting measles so that they safely return to full health with life-long immunity. Vaccine safety groups are supporting the Somali parents in gathering accurate information about measles and measles vaccines and supporting parental decision-making and their rights to be in charge of the decision-making for their children regarding medical procedures.
The Minnesota Department of Health has held many meetings with the Somali community, with faith leaders, and health care professionals to advise people to vaccinate all those who had not received the MMR vaccine. Parents of unvaccinated children have been informed that they would be excluded from day cares and schools where there were outbreaks. Day care centers have been closed for quarantine periods.
At the Minnesota 2017 legislature, Rep. Mike Frieberg, the author of the 2015 restrictive vaccine bill, renewed his call to pass the 2015 vaccine bill that was designed to make it more difficult to decline vaccines, now known as HF 96. Vaccine safety advocates sponsored a Lobby Day in the 2017 session, and over 60 advocates visited with legislators to speak to them about the importance of maintaining Minnesota’s conscientious exemption to vaccine mandates. They worked to raise awareness about the serious concerns regarding vaccines and the multiple vaccination policies for young developing children. They informed legislators that vaccines are not without risk: the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has compensated 469 parents for disability from the MMR vaccine; 59 of those cases were for death following the MMR vaccine. Advocates reinforced the idea that where there is risk, there must be choice.
Vaccine safety leaders informed the Legislators about the CDC misrepresentation in their CDC research on the MMR vaccine, which falsely showed no link between vaccines and autism. Legislators were educated that CDC lead vaccine scientist Dr. William Thompson had come forward and admitted that the study had been fraudulently manipulated, and that it actually showed an increase in autism among children given the MMR before 36 months, as compared to earlier than 36 months, particularly in African American children. Legislators were also informed that the CDC will not allow Dr. Thompson to publicly speak unless he is subpoenaed by Congress. Congress has not yet subpoenaed Dr. Thompson.
NHFA and NHFC stand strongly for the right of parents to make final decisions about all medical carefor their children, including vaccinations. The parental right to make these decisions is a fundamental constitutional right that we shall forever work to protect. We firmly assert that Minnesota must maintain exemption opportunities for parents to vaccines recommended by the government before admittance to school. We support the right of the state to organize quarantine policies as spelled out under Minnesota law and for citizens to abide by such with due process and the least restrictive infringements on personal autonomy as also spelled out in Minnesota law. We will always hold that ultimately it is the parents that must weigh the risks and benefits of all health care interventions, and decide what is best for their child.