Minnesota is currently dealing with the largest measles outbreak in decades, and health officials hope the public learns from these sick children and the decision their parents made.
Almost all of the 48 people currently infected are children, and although only 11 of them are currently hospitalized due to complications, the Minnesota depart of health is expecting many more. David Johnson, program manager with the Hennepin County Health Department, explained that after a "natural experiment" gained popularity in the community, vaccine rates dropped as preventable disease spread.
"What we have now is a community that was really influenced by these anti-vaccine groups. And they've performed a natural experiment: to forgo the measles vaccine based on this propaganda," David told NBC News.
David explained that in the community that's affected by the outbreaks, their vaccine rates were once higher than average but have plummeted to half of that. "And unfortunately now we are seeing the result," he said. "Measles is spreading rapidly in the community and 11 children are hospitalized. And at the same time there is no evidence of any corresponding drop in autism in the community."
According to officials, Somali immigrants have had the hardest time with this outbreak as many have opted against vaccines because of a higher autism rate within their community. "There has been ongoing contact between outside groups who have come in and wanted to do organizing within the community that's affected here," David said. "And I think that's really unfortunate because some of the anti-vaccine propaganda is largely to blame for what's going on in our community."
Participants of the "anti-vaxxer campaigns" have organized within the community lobbying parents to be wary of vaccines, autism, and pharmaceutical companies. "These groups continue to fabricate and promote alternative facts that have no bearing on reality," David said. "They've preyed on parents' concerns about the health of their children and they've provided them false hope that avoiding the measles vaccine will somehow prevent autism, when in fact not vaccinating only serves to increase the risk of a child getting a disease and then spreading it to others."