Andrew Wakefield, the British doctor who stands accused of committing ‘deliberate fraud‘ in his 1998 study linking vaccines to autism, continues to spread the word—misinformation, that is—about the causes of autism. The Star Tribune reports that, this Wednesday, Wakefield ‘met privately with a gathering of Somali parents’ in the Twin Cities area; the meeting was described as a ‘support group’ to reporters, who were barred from participating.
Wakefield has been struck off the medical register in the United Kingdom and is no longer allowed to practice medicine there. Scientists and medical professionals have widely acknowledged that Wakefield’s error-ridden study set off a worldwide public health crisis by causing many parents to choose to forego vaccinations for their children, thereby making them susceptible to serious infectious diseases like measles and whooping cough.
There have indeed been outbreaks in the US of these two diseases in the past few years. Most recently, health officials in Minnesota have reported an alarming rise in measles cases among children in the Twin Cities area. As of Wednesday, 11 measles cases have been confirmed in Hennepin County since February, according to the Star Tribune. At least three of the those cases have occurred among unvaccinated children in the Somali community in Minneapolis.
Health officials have reported, and have not been able to account for, a recent disproportionately high number of cases of autism spectrum disorder among Somali children. Some parents in the Somali community, having learned of claims that vaccines or something in vaccines might be linked to autism, have chosen not to vaccinate their children. Local and state heath officials in Minnesota are planning, says the Star Tribune, a forum this Saturday for Somali immigrants, to discuss the outbreak of measles and the need to make sure that their children are vaccinated.
I am hopeful, though it is probably a false hope, that someone is also keeping those Somali parents informed about the extent to which Wakefield’s 1998 findings have been discredited; that earlier this year, the British Medical Journal published articles detailing how Wakefield had falsified data in his 1998 study
That you don’t die from autism, but you can die from measles, and horribly.
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