comment on: Childhood vaccine beliefs reported by somali and non-somali parents.

14 Jul

Autism in the U.S. Somali Community has gathered significant attention in recent years (as has autism in other Somali communities outside of Somalia, for example in Sweden). Most of the attention in the U.S. can be traced back to vigorous advocacy by people like my fellow IACC public member Idil Abdul. Not all attention is good. For example, Minnesota Somali parents received a lot of attention from groups promoting the failed vaccine/autism link. When news of the possibly high prevalence in the Minnesota Somali community arose, David Kirby used the story to promote the idea of vaccines causing autism. Generation Rescue brought in Andrew Wakefield to talk to Somali parents in closed door meetings.

With the discussion of vaccines and autism comes fear and with fear of vaccines comes a reduced uptake. One recent story reports that the MMR uptake in the Minnesota Somali community dropped from 90% to 54% in the past 10 years. Sadly, that same story discusses how the Minnesota Somali community is presently involved in one of the largest measles outbreaks in recent history.

The question is, what are the views of the Somali community on vaccines and autism? To answer that, a new study has just been released: Childhood vaccine beliefs reported by somali and non-somali parents. (note the lack of capitalization of Somali is in the original). The full paper is available online.

There are limitations to the study, such as the use of a “convenience sample” of parents attending one specific clinic. This could induce bias. Also, the response rate was about 50%. This is reasonable, but again some bias might be involved in who actually responded. People who distrust vaccines might distrust those performing the survey, for example.

To answer the question–yes, Somalis in Minnesota do think that the MMR causes autism more than their non-Somali counterparts. Nearly 5 times more likely. But, the majority do not believe–about 35% of Somali parents and 8% of non-Somali parents believe that autism is caused by vaccines.

At recent IACC meetings, Idil Abdul has related how she knows Minnesota Somali families who stopped vaccinating after having a first autistic child. These families went on to have more autistic children. Unvaccinated autistic children. In one family, she relates a family with 5 autistic children.

This stands as an example of where we in the autism parent community have failed. We scared the parents in the Minnesota Somali community, sending in Generation Rescue, Andrew Wakefield and David Kirby. Parents stopped vaccinating, offering zero protection from autism but leaving their children open to infectious diseases. To say nothing of the guilt that parents feel and the children who grow up under that falsely placed guilt.

Yes, I stand apart from the minority of parents spreading the message of a vaccine-epidemic. But, as a community, we have to accept our failures as a community. And this is an example of a big failure.

Here is the abstract.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

In 2011, an outbreak of measles in Minnesota was traced back to an unvaccinated Somali child. The purpose of this project was to (1) ascertain whether Somali parents are more likely than non-Somalis to refuse childhood vaccinations, particularly the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and (2) determine what factors influence the decision not to vaccinate.

METHODS:

We explored parental perceptions and utilization of vaccines through a survey distributed to a convenience sample of Somali and non-Somali parents of children ≤5 years old in a family medicine clinic in Minneapolis, MN.

RESULTS:

A total of 99 surveys were completed, 28% (n = 27) by Somali parents. Somali parents were more likely than non-Somali parents to have refused the MMR vaccine for their child (odds ratio, 4.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-18.0). Most of them refused vaccines because they had heard of adverse effects associated with the vaccine or personally knew someone who suffered an adverse effect. Somali parents were significantly more likely to believe that autism is caused by vaccines (35% vs. 8% of non-Somali parents). Somalis were also more likely to be uncomfortable with administering multiple vaccines at one visit (odds ratio, 4.0; 95% confidence interval, 1.4-11.9) and more likely to believe that children receive too many vaccines.

CONCLUSIONS:

Statistically significant differences in perceptions and use of vaccines were reported by Somali and non-Somali participants. Somali parents are more likely to believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism and more likely to refuse the MMR vaccine than non-Somali parents. These beliefs have contributed to an immunization gap between Somaliand non-Somali children


By Matt Carey

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2 Responses to “comment on: Childhood vaccine beliefs reported by somali and non-somali parents.”

  1. goldy July 15, 2014 at 06:38 #

    I remember watching popular ABC program 4 Corners a while back about Somali Families that experience a much higher rate of autism when they came to America. The Somali children were found to have high levels of clostridia bacteria a botox toxin which inhibited neuro muscular transmission in their gut which responded to Vancomycin and the autism like symptoms disappeared. Unfortunately the clostridium bacteria has “seeds” which the Vacomycin are unable to destroy and thus the symptoms came back. The Clostridium has gut driven effect on the brain. The Somali mothers tried putting their childen on the more traditional Somali diet which included a lot of fermented foods – less sugar and refined American diet. This did in many cases cure or very much help the autism symptoms as it seems changing the gut bacteria is helpful. There is no doubt there is a gut brain connection and more and more research is coming out about this.

  2. lilady July 15, 2014 at 21:45 #

    I’ve been posting about the measles outbreak in Hennepin County (Minneapolis) and the underhanded tactics of Andrew Wakefield to dissuade Somali-American parents from getting their children fully immunized against measles. The odious Andrew Wakefield is a public health menace and he is responsible for the 2011 measles outbreak in Minneapolis, during 2011.

    The most recent meeting of the IACC was covered by Autism Speaks. There was a parent who testified and who has a strong belief that her child’s autism was caused by
    vaccines. Her testimony was a personal attack on “the leader” of the IACC.

    Idil Abdul, who I believe exercised extreme compassion, was attacked for her statement. I viewed the live feed of that IACC meeting and I appreciated the restraint and kindness extended to that woman by Abdul.

    http://www.autismspeaks.org/science/science-news/interagency-autism-coordinating-committee-july-meeting-highlights

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