Last month, Minnesota experienced its largest outbreak of measles in the past three decades. Currently, 76 cases have rattled the state with most involving the Somali-American community near Hennepin County.
At the turn of the century, the United States eliminated measles from the country. However, with the misconceptions of vaccines rising, the disease began to reappear in many parts of the United States.
One large reason why the Somali population was particularly susceptible to this outbreak was due to people failing to get vaccinated. Numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health show that, while the vaccination rate for others in the state has increased, the vaccination rate for Somali Americans plummeted from 92 percent in 2004 to 42 percent in 2014.
Much of the public has targeted the blame toward the anti-vaccination campaign, specifically the Somali population in Hennepin County. While certainly this has merit, it’s imperative to consider the underlying reason why this population was submissive to this coercion.
In 2005, a pivotal study by the Minnesota Department of Health concluded that Somalian immigrants were among the least served by Minnesota’s health system. The latest results con rm that Somali immigrants had the lowest healthcare outcomes and didn’t receive appropriate care for many easily preventable diseases.
While it may be easy to blame anti-vaxxers for this outbreak, the infrastructural deficits in health care access cannot be ignored. To improve, it’s imperative to hold policymakers and members of the public health community accountable for this failure.