Nonprofit Aims to Advise Somali-Americans on Vaccination Rights

April 30, 2017 10:32 PM

Of the 32 known measles cases since the last week of March, the Minnesota Department of Health said, 28 are Somali-American children.

The department is now urging Somali families to make sure their children are immunized against measles, and the state agency also encouraged them to consider an "accelerated vaccination schedule to stop the outbreak."


Now, another group is weighing in.

The nonprofit Vaccine Safety Council of Minnesota held a Sunday meeting in south Minneapolis aimed at helping Somali families understand their legal rights. The group informed the families they can say no to certain childhood vaccinations and still be allowed to receive benefits and send their children to daycare and school.

The keynote speaker at the meeting was Mark Blaxill, cofounder of Health Choice. Blaxill said his daughter is afflicted by what he said is "vaccine-induced autism." 

RELATED: Measles Outbreak Now at 32, Highest Number Since 1990

Blaxill said his message Sunday was not "anti-vaccine," but rather an informational seminar on legal rights to decline childhood vaccinations.

"The vaccination schedule for children in this country has exploded since 1986," Blaxill said. "And we simply do not know all of the possible negative side effects of these vaccines as a collective group of immunizations."

And Blaxill said every citizen should know they do not have to feel pressure to vaccinate if they do not agree with the government's immunization programs.

"I have seen bullying by government agencies across the country, especially targeting new immigrants, to make them feel they have no other choice but to go along with an immunization schedule for children that, in my opinion, is too many and too soon for many of these kids," Blaxill said.

Kris Ehresmann is director of the health department's Infectious Disease Division. She told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, "The anti-vaccine groups have targeted Somali families here in Minnesota, and now we have a measles outbreak.

"These anti-vaccine groups, unfortunately, have targeted the fears of the Somali families, which I think were valid concerns," Ehresmann said. "But their concern for their kids was taken advantage of and is filled with misinformation from the anti-vaccine groups."

MDH issued a statement Sunday that said, in part, "We have been working diligently for years to address the impacts that autism is having on the Somali-Minnesota community and others. At the same time, we have been addressing their vulnerability to measles. We continue to promote measles vaccination as the way to prevent measles and stop this outbreak."


Jay Kolls

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