In-Depth Look At The MMR Vaccine Debate
It’s a virus that has ravaged the state of Minnesota for the better part of the last two months. With over 70 cases statewide, the measles outbreak has been deemed the largest outbreak in Minnesota in the past 30 years.
The largest concentration of cases is in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, which is a predominantly Somali-American population, where there has been an ongoing debate for years about the effectiveness of the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. Many reports say that as many of 42% of Somali-American children were unvaccinated prior to the beginning of the recent measles outbreak.
I talked to Dr. Steve Vincent, Chief Medical Officer of the People’s Center, located in the heart of Cedar-Riverside, and asked him why so many Somali children were unvaccinated before the outbreak.
“Well, it’s fear of autism that could be caused by the MMR vaccine,” Dr. Vincent said. “It’s an unfounded claim based on a study from England nearly 20 years ago.”
Leo Cashman of the Minnesota Natural Health Coalition, an anti-vaccination advocacy group, states that the MMR vaccine still causes autism.
“There have been findings of the vaccine-type measles virus in the intestines of children with autism,” Cashman said. “This is what has been found in Minnesota in the Somali community. They find that there is an onset of some kind of vaccine injury; it might be autism, it might be encephalitis. The child loses the normal ability to speak. The Somali community has noticed this and has observed it and talked about it and gotten more information about it.
Now after hearing the claim that measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine causes autism, I came here to downtown Saint Paul to visit with Kris Ehresmann of the Minnesota Department of Health and asked her if there was any merit to that claim.
“There have been a number of studies, so multiple studies, by different researchers using different methodologies, and performed in different places that have all refuted a link between vaccines and autism,” Ehresman, Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director, said. “So to me, that’s what’s important, ‘what does the science show?’”
And for Ehresmann, a mother of two, the vaccination debate is personal and hits home for her, like it does for many parents across Minnesota.
“The reason I can say with confidence that I believe in vaccines is that the two most important in my life are my children and they are fully vaccinated,” Ehresmann said. “If I had any concern about the value of vaccines, I wouldn’t have vaccinated my own children.”
In the end, the light at the end of the tunnel could be near for the measles outbreak, as the rate of confirmed cases has slowed down drastically in the past two weeks.
However, signs are pointing to a much longer vaccination debate, which will outlive the 2017 Minnesota measles outbreak.