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Somali Community in Minnesota Fights Measles, Misinformation


Amira Hassan, of Burnsville, Minnesota, plays in the waiting room at the specialty clinic at Children's Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota, May 2, 2017. Amira went to the hospital's clinic for a routine wellness check, but had to wear a mask to protect her from measles after an outbreak.
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An ongoing measles outbreak in Minnesota has shined a light on the fact that many Somali immigrants choose not to vaccinate their children.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 63 measles cases have been reported statewide as of May 16, and 53 of those cases were Minnesotans of Somali origin. Sixty of the reported cases involve individuals confirmed to not be vaccinated.

Public health officials blame false rumors that vaccines are linked to autism and other health problems for the high rate of unvaccinated children in Minnesota’s Somali-American community.

The department’s disease director, Kris Ehresmann, said anti-vaccination groups have targeted the community with events and have even translated the anti-vaccine documentary “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe” into Somali.

“They have been very aggressive and are continuing in their efforts to reach out to the community with misinformation throughout the duration of this outbreak,” Ehresmann said.

Anti-vaccine views

In interviews with Somali mothers, VOA’s Somali Service found that anti-vaccine views are widespread.

“I have a baby boy who was well before the vaccine, but eventually he became autistic because of the vaccine. After him, I have never vaccinated my children,” said Safia Sheikh Mohamed, a mother of four children.

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