It Didn’t Have to Happen

This is what happens when poor information and irrational fear trumps verified medical science.

“The young mother,” The Washington Post reports (May 5), “started getting advice early on from friends in the close-knit Somali immigrant community here. Don’t let your children get the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella — it causes autism, they said.

“Suaado Salah listened. And this spring, her 3-year-old boy and 18-month-old girl contracted measles in Minnesota’s largest outbreak of the highly infectious and potentially deadly disease in nearly three decades. Her daughter, who had a rash, high fever and a cough, was hospitalized for four nights and needed intravenous fluids and oxygen.

“ ‘I thought: I’m in America. I thought I’m in a safe place and my kids will never get sick in that disease,’ said Salah, 26, who has lived in Minnesota for more than a decade. Growing up in Somalia, she’d had measles as a child. A sister died of the disease at age 3.”

However, in Minnesota, “The state has reported 44 confirmed cases of measles since April 11, and the outbreak is the largest this year in the United States, which had essentially eradicated the disease in 2000 before discredited research stoked fears of a link between vaccines and autism,” The New York Times writes (May 5).

“As of Thursday, 11 patients have been hospitalized, Doug Schultz, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health, said on Friday. It is the largest outbreak in the state since 1990, when 460 cases were reported. All of the patients, with the exception of an adult health care worker, were children younger than 10. Most were under 5, he said.”

Why does misinformation that has been debunked by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and many other studies, persist?

“Mohamud Noor,” The Times continues, “executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said anti-vaccine activists had met one-on-one with families and had been more aggressive than public health educators in getting their message out.

“Though the medical research has debunked the connection of vaccines to autism, the notion is deeply rooted in the community, Mr. Noor said on Friday, adding that the ‘main fight’ was combating that perception.”

“Fear of autism runs so deep in the Somali community,” The Washington Post said, “that parents whose children have recently come down with measles insist that measles preferable to risking autism. One father, who did not want his family identified to protect their privacy, sat helplessly by his daughter’s bed at Children’s Minnesota hospital last week as she struggled to breathe during coughing fits.

“The 23-month-old was on an IV for fluids and had repeatedly pulled out the oxygen tube in her nose. Her older brother, almost 4, endured a milder bout. Neither had received the MMR vaccine.

“The children now have antibodies to protect against measles, but they still need the vaccine to prevent mumps and rubella.”

Despite the fact that measles can cause death, not to mention spreading an infectious disease to other unprotected children, some parents are more willing to put the their child’s welfare in the hands of an activist over healthcare providers with a clear background in medical science.

We live in an age where more information is literally available our fingertips than at any other time in history. Nonetheless, information, in the form of conspiracy theories and debunked studies online, is just plain wrong. And that wrong information has led to the deaths and unnecessary hospitalization of who knows how many young souls.

How many times does this have to happen?

How many children have to get sick and possibly die before parents trust medically proven science over the hogwash activists promote?

In 1998, the CDC released a notice: “Vaccine Use and Strategies for Elimination of Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome and Control of Mumps: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).”

For any concerned parent still sitting on the fence about the efficacy of vaccines, here are links to eight different websites with reliable information about vaccinations:

Center for Disease Control

PublicHealth.org

The American Council on Science and Health

Johns-Hopkins

Science-Based Medicine

Web MD

Parents Magazine

Science Magazine

Educate yourself. Don’t let another child needlessly suffer or die.

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