Some Autism Parents Livid After Boston Herald Publishes Contentious Editorial In Response To Measles Outbreak

Dawn Papple

The Boston Herald's editorial staff is facing the wrath of many angry parents, after the paper published an op-ed containing a violent suggestion about how to handle people who suggest that vaccines might trigger autism. Vaccine skeptics have been blamed for the 51 cases of measles in Minnesota's Hennepin, Ramsey and Crow Wing counties. Commissioner Kristen Ehresmann at the Minnesota Department of Health said that more people within the Somali community have become skeptical of the MMR vaccine in recent years and that is the reason that the state is facing a measles outbreak currently.

The community at the heart of the debate is the largest Somali community in North America. According to the Boston Herald op-ed, the number of children in Minnesota of Somali decent who have documented proof of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination was only 42 percent in 2014.

Of the 51 people who contracted measles in the Minnesota counties, 48 of them are children and three of them are adults. Of the 51 people who have contracted measles, 46 are Somali. Only three of those infected have documentation of measles vaccination, according to CNN, while 47 are not vaccinated against measles. One infected person has an unknown MMR vaccination status.

Somali-Americans have a higher rate of autism than the general public. This increased rate led some parents within the Somali-American community to skip the MMR vaccine over worries that there may be a link that has not been disclosed yet.

In 2009, the New York Times confirmed that "young Somali children appeared to be two to seven times as likely as other children to be in classes for autistic pupils."

"Dr. Sanne Magnan, the state health commissioner, said the finding was 'consistent with the observations by parents,' who have been saying for more than a year that alarming numbers of Somali children born in this country have severe autism. Somalis began immigrating into the area in the 1990s, fleeing civil war in their homeland."

The lack of vaccination in the Somali community in Minnesota led to a report in Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. That paper indicated that most parents in the Somali community refused vaccines because they believed that vaccines caused autism. When asked why they felt that vaccines cause autism, every single one of the parents reported that they feel that vaccines cause autism "because they knew a child who received the MMR vaccine and then got autism." One-fifth of the Somali Minnesotan parents had researched the topic themselves "and believed that science supports the connection" between autism and vaccines.

The last statement of the op-ed is what has set the vaccine skeptics off.

"These are the facts: Vaccines don't cause autism. Measles can kill. And lying to vulnerable people about the health and safety of their children ought to be a hanging offense."

"Discussing vaccine safety issues is not a 'hanging offense'. I suggest the author and readers alike familiarize themselves with the claims of a senior research scientist from the CDC, and one of the authors of a landmark study which was used to dismiss a link between MMR vaccine and autism," David Foster of San Diego, California, wrote. "He claims the CDC withheld information showing that earlier receipt of MMR vaccine increased the risk of autism in some children. Does that sound like something worth talking about?"

Foster went on to link an archived page of Thompson's lawyer's website that had the CDC scientist's official press release published on it.

"So, merck is being sued for fraud - for committing scientific fraud with the MMR. What should the punishment be for the heads of Merck at the time the scientists were told to falsify the efficacy of the mumps portion? Jail? Hanging?"

[Featured Image by Amy Forliti/AP Images]