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Somalis Americans rush to vax their children, despite campaign against

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Despite an emboldened anti-vaccination movement in Minnesota, the State’s Somali American community has turned out in droves to have their children immunised against measles.

The Midwestern US State has recorded its worst measles outbreak in decades, with most cases involving unvaccinated Somali American pre-schoolers.

Since March this year, Minnesota public health officials have confirmed 79 local measles cases, resulting in 22 people being hospitalised with dehydration, high fever and respiratory difficulties.

Officials also report that more than 8,200 people were exposed to the virus in day-care ­centres, schools, clinics and hospitals.

In a bizarre twist, the outbreak has energised the anti-vaxxers in their campaign to thwart health authorities’ effort to prevent the spread of the disease.

The movement opposed to immunisation has ramped up its use of social media to denounce the need for childhood vaccinations.

Activists are openly talking about exposing unvaccinated children to those with measles so that they can be infected and build up immunities.

But while the ferocity of the sudden anti-vax push has surprised health officials in Minnesota, they have also noted that the Somali community is largely ignoring the activists.

Describing it as an “unprecedented collaboration” between doctors and health officials, and community leaders, Somali American imams are urging families to have their children vaccinated.

The imams are telling their followers to protect their children against disease and have them vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).

Doctors are reporting they are seeing parents who had previously repeatedly refused to have their children immunised, now accepting the need for the vaccinations.

Health authorities are describing it as a “major shift in the uptake” of Somali families seeking immunisations.

The biggest jump was noticed between April and July.

The anti-vax activists appear to be motivated by the tour of the film Vaxxed: From Cover-up to Catastrophe, which has been widely ridiculed elsewhere.

The film was directed by Andrew Wakefield, a former doctor who promotes the debunked claim that MMR vaccinations are linked to autism.

Australian Medical Association President Dr Michael Gannon has described the film as ludicrous and dangerous.

“Andrew Wakefield was found to have fraudulently produced evidence around the original MMR scare in Britain, which led to him being deregistered as a doctor,” Dr Gannon said.

“The next phase of his career is as an amateur filmmaker. That’s not where I’d be getting my advice from.”

The Minnesota Vaccine Freedom Coalition posted on its Facebook page that it had not been involved in the sudden surge of targeted anti-vax campaigns that health authorities in the State are reporting.

CHRIS JOHNSON 

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