Minnesota Somalis Have World’s Highest Rate of Autism – MMR Vaccine Link?

This winter, Minneapolis area health officials reported 76 measles cases among Somali-Americans. Mainstream media outlets, most recently, John Oliver in a 28 minute rant, vilified Somali-Americans for low vaccine rates and blamed Andrew Wakefield, MD and the so-called “anti-vaccine movement” for misleading Somalis about vaccine safety. Like most other journalists, Oliver never explained the story behind this story; the children of Minneapolis’s Somalis suffer  the highest known rate of severe autism in the world—one in 32, according to University of Minnesota researchers. Many Somalis believe that their children’s injuries are related to vaccines. “My perfectly healthy son started having seizures within minutes after his 18-month vaccines,” Abdulkadir Osman Hassan told me in June “and the seizures have never stopped.”  Hassan’s boy, now 14, is severely autistic. “I quickly determined I was not alone.” Somali parents had already started a support group and were sharing with each other the terrible reactions their children were having to vaccines. “We don’t have a word for autism in the Somali language,” explains Hassan, who has an Associate’s Degree in Childhood Development. “We never saw it in our country. We never heard of it. The adults in our community don’t have it, only our children.” Hassan immersed himself in the science trying to understand what had happened to his son. “We researched vaccine safety long before we knew there was an ‘anti-vaccine movement’. I read the scholarly studies and I read 14 books and I cried every time I finished a book because it’s exactly what happened to us.”  Hassan complains that, despite a decade of pleading from his community, public health officials have refused to investigate the high occurrence of autism in their community or to explain whether Somalis have increased susceptibility to neurodevelopmental injuries from vaccines.