Minnesota Department of Health Schools Professionals to Persuade Somali Parents to Give their Children the MMR Vaccine – Despite Clear Opposition

By Patti Carroll, VSCM board member

I apologize for the long title, but it’s important that readers understand exactly what our tax dollars are being spent on.

On Wednesday, April 13th, I attended an educational forum for professionals put on by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The title of the forum was “Autism in the Somali Community and Vaccine Hesitancy”. The stated purpose was: “This session will provide the latest information on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by a national childhood development expert and updates on immunization data relevant to Minnesota Somali children”.

Background: MMR uptake in the Minnesota Somali community has been steadily dropping over the past few years, so MDH has been devising ways to persuade Somalis to give their children the MMR vaccine – rather than respecting the Somalis’ faith, their intelligence, their life experiences, and their personal health choices.

The purpose of the forum was innocently framed as simply providing information about autism and vaccine hesitancy, but having attended several MDH “informational” forums in the past, I knew better. For example, during a small measles outbreak in 2011, MDH held an “informational” forum where people could learn from the “experts”. The forum presented very little information about autism, except that they did not know what causes it. But every “expert” on the panel emphatically stated that autism is NOT caused by vaccines. These “experts” included a Somali autism mom with no vaccine research experience, a man they referred to as a doctor, but whom has never had a license to practice medicine in the US, and various MDH spokespeople. During the forum, MDH set up a free mobile vaccine clinic (stocked with 600 doses of the MMR vaccine) as if they believed the Somalis would fall for the propaganda and immediately jump in line to roll up their sleeves. There were exactly ZERO takers, by the way.

The Somalis who attended felt betrayed by the doctors and health officials they put their trust in. They witnessed the immediate and dramatic health decline of their beautiful children after a round of vaccines. Only then did they do their own research and soon realized that doctors were not providing the facts about serious side effects of vaccines, nor about the complete lack of accountability that exists when vaccine injuries occur. They now know that while the measles may be deadly to malnourished children in third-world countries; it is mostly a benign childhood disease that was killing very few people in the US long before a vaccine for it was developed. To quote one Somali parent: “Who cares about the measles? Measles is temporary, but autism is forever.”

As you can see from their power point, MDH has been working since 2008 to dispel the Somali parents’ fears of vaccine-induced autism. Since all of their efforts have failed, they are now enlisting the aid of Somali health professionals to help them coerce the Somali parents who have thoughtfully (and legally) chosen to avoid the MMR vaccine.

Here’s an overview of some of the forum speakers:

Maggie Diebel of the MDH gave a brief introduction, during which she stated “Engaging with the community is absolutely critical”, and went on to say that MDH has hired two more Somali staff to conduct training in the community on autism and vaccine-preventable diseases. She also made the claim that MDH tracks immunization records “to ensure people are protected from dangerous diseases”.

The tactic of using leading terminology (like the term “immunization” instead of the actual act of “vaccination”, and claiming diseases are “vaccine-preventable”) grossly oversimplifies the issue – as if to say that “vaccinated” automatically equals “immune” or “protected from dangerous diseases”.

Side note: During the aforementioned small measles outbreak in 2011, up to 38% of the people who got the measles had been vaccinated for it, but MDH rarely makes a point of telling people that.

Ms. Diebel also said “We are obligated to do what we can to improve vaccination rates”.

What she didn’t say: Anything to acknowledge the truth of what Somali parents have been telling the world for years: Their previously healthy children regressed into autism after vaccination. She said nothing about the well-known side effects of vaccines, including brain damage and death, nor that the US government has compensated many families for vaccine injuries resulting in autism. She did not say that MDH is “obligated” to protect Minnesotans from vaccine injuries, even though vaccine injuries are just as devastating to the health of Minnesotans as any communicable disease.

The second speaker was Hassan Samanter, a Somali advocate with the PACER Center, who spoke about the challenges faced by Somali families dealing with autism. One statement stood out: Hassan started working for PACER (an organization that helps people with all types of disabilities) in 2007. At that time, 4-5% of his work involved autism. Now, 96% of his work is autism-related.

What he didn’t say: Anything expressing alarm about what is causing so much autism in the Somali community nor a desire to find out so we can stop it from happening to more children.

Dr. Amy Hewitt of the University of Minnesota gave a presentation on the prevalence of autism in the Somali community. Dr. Hewitt was the principle investigator in the 2013 CDC/U of M report on Somali ASD prevalence in Minneapolis. This huge project (funded by the CDC, the NIH and Autism Speaks – with an additional $100,000 of Minnesota taxpayer funds thrown in) was undertaken as a follow-up to the MDH prevalence report which came out in 2009. At that time, MDH figures showed that Minnesota Somali children were accessing autism-related educational services between two and seven times as much as non-Somali kids.

The 2013 report (focusing only on the city of Minneapolis) concluded that the autism prevalence rates between Somali kids and white kids was actually very similar – 1 in 32 Somalis, 1 in 36 white kids. Both were higher than the overall average of 1 in 48 in Minneapolis. Dr. Hewitt pointed out one shocking finding of the report, which is that while the overall average percentage of children who had co-occurring intellectual disabilities was 33%, the percentage of Somali kids with co-occurring intellectual disabilities was 100%. That’s right – 100%. So the Somali kids are being hit much harder, and seem to be experiencing the more classic, severe form of autism (although the smiling, happy faces from the report’s photos clearly don’t reflect this severity). Dr. Hewitt announced that yet another phase of the prevalence tracking is underway – this time to go back and provide clinical confirmation of that 100% co-occurring intellectual disability number.

What she didn’t say: How long this next phase of prevalence verification will take, or how much it will cost the taxpayers. It has already been nearly a decade since the Somali autism anomaly was first publicized. How many times do we need to COUNT these kids? How many children could have been saved during the past decade if the focus had been on prevention, rather than prevalence?

A little history: When Representative Karen Clark (Minneapolis) wrote a bill 5 years ago that would have compelled the MDH to do an autism CAUSATION study within the Somali community, the organization that fought the bill the hardest was – you guessed it – the Minnesota Department of Health. An MDH spokesperson made the lame excuse that they needed to COUNT these kids first, even though they had already done that and found a shocking difference between Somali and non-Somali kids receiving school services for autism. It would seem that MDH would rather spend our precious tax dollars counting and recounting kids with autism (and pushing an unwanted MMR vaccine) rather than actually working to prevent more devastation by autism.

Dr. Paul Carbone, the national childhood development expert, presented very basic information on autism – what it is, how to recognize it, etc. He stated that only within the last few years have they have come to realize how much early intervention can help. I nearly laughed out loud at this statement, since the importance of early intervention was heavily stressed back when my 19-year-old was diagnosed. I soon realized he was laying the groundwork for his main message – which was that we now know SO much more about autism, and people should be encouraged that the experts are discovering new things all the time. This tied in with the MDH power point advice telling professionals to “change the script” from what they don’t know (which is what causes autism) to “this is what we have learned about autism up to now”.

He qualified the question “Why are the rates going up so much?” with the often-claimed “better diagnosing”, changes in the DSM criteria, and diagnostic substitution. But I doubt these explanations can account for an over 90% increase in Somali autism-related services in just the past 9 years, as stated by PACER advocate Hassan Samanter earlier in the forum.

Dr. Carbone talked about how far we’ve come since the day when leading autism researchers blamed parenting style (“refrigerator moms”) for autism. To put this statement in perspective, the “refrigerator mom” theory was de-bunked over half a century ago by autism pioneer Dr. Bernard Rimland, so this is hardly “new” news. Dr. Carbone said that parents fought back and helped drive research into what is REALLY causing autism, although he never gave a concrete answer as to what is REALLY causing autism. He said we know it is highly heritable, but the etiology is extremely complicated. He went on to say that there are a lot of different causes of autism, and that there is a strong interaction with the environment.

Side note: There seems to be a crack in the mainstream “purely genetics” paradigm because Dr. Hewitt had also stated during her presentation that we know autism is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Although it’s a baby step to have MDH-sponsored doctors finally concur with what the autism community has known since the 1970s, it’s a step all the same.

Dr. Carbone also stated that while it’s not part of the official diagnostic criteria, children with ASD often have a whole range of medical conditions, including sleep problems, seizures & epilepsy, and gastrointestinal issues. Again, these co-occurring medical conditions (often vaccine-induced) have been recognized and treated for by autism doctors for decades. It’s great to see that the “experts” are finally catching on.

After repeating how complicated this whole process is, Dr. Carbone then made the bold statement that if he were to do genetic testing on your child, there is a 30-40% chance he can tell you what caused your child’s autism. Wow – if this were true it should be front page news!

So after the forum I decided to look at the 2013 study he referenced (which is actually a summary of many other studies) when he made the claim that 30-40% of autism can now be attributed to genes.

I wasn’t surprised to see that some of the genetic predispositions they talk about have long been known by forward-thinking doctors, including mitochondrial dysfunction. But then I saw this:

Mitochondrial abnormalities

New literature suggests a link between mitochondrial dysfunction and ASDs. This association has been recognized in persons with autistic behaviors and loss of speech after a febrile illness or immunization with subsequent encephalopathy.

So, Dr. Carbone (inadvertently, no doubt) referenced a paper that actually backs up what thousands of parents including myself have been saying for years:

  • My son has documented mitochondrial dysfunction.
  • My son suffered a dangerously high fever post-vaccination, followed by a diagnosed encephalopathy.
  • My son was diagnosed with “autism” nine months later.

Since I carry at least one of the same mitochondrial genetic polymorphisms that my son does, and I show no symptoms of autism, the genes+environment theory is supported in my own personal situation. Because although I have the same gene, I didn’t get slammed with up to 9 vaccines in a single sitting, like my baby son did. Hannah Poling was compensated by the US government back in 2008 for this exact scenario, but the CDC and their minions at the MDH are still working to convince parents that vaccines don’t cause autism. I wonder how many Somali kids have mitochondrial dysfunction. It would be easy enough to check, if the “experts” were so inclined.

What he didn’t say: Dr. Carbone didn’t mention that one of the environmental factors that interact with genes to cause autism is vaccines, as stated in the paper he cited. I assume that revelation would have been frowned upon at this particular event.

When Lynn Bahta of the MDH spoke, we finally got down to the gist of what this forum was all about. She is a public health nurse who is considered the “subject matter expert” on vaccines, according to her bio. Ms. Bahta previously worked for the heavily pharma-funded Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) as a nurse consultant.

Side note: The revolving door between astroturf groups like IAC and the MDH is similar to the revolving door between CDC and the pharmaceutical companies. For example, Diane Peterson, who is now the Associate Director for Immunization Projects of IAC, worked previously at the MDH for many years in vaccine promotion. You can read HERE about how IAC is being investigated for its role in promoting censorship of the new documentary “VaxXed”, which tells the story of CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson. Dr. Thompson became a whistleblower when he admitted that the CDC committed vaccine research fraud in order to cover up an association between the MMR vaccine and autism, with the strongest correlation being in African-American boys. It’s not surprising that IAC is working to prevent people from seeing this film, since IAC’s biggest funder is none other than the CDC.

Anyway, back to the forum. Ms. Bahta was very careful throughout her presentation to not specifically say vaccines don’t cause autism, but all the references to “countering misinformation” were clearly implying it. Her power point presentation framed the vaccine/autism link as a “perceived risk”, and contained gems like the following:

“If a mother is refusing, invite the father to come discuss these issues at the next visit”

(In other words – just keep pushing those unwanted vaccines. Maybe you can convince dad to go against mom’s obvious wishes! )

“Provide advice with confidence – options are confusing”

(Not only is this extremely insulting to the intelligence of the Somali parents, but it could be illegal if they are suggesting that providers do not inform parents they have a legal right to say no.)

20 parents interviewed, who “Fear autism more than measles”

(So is MDH actually suggesting that lifelong, debilitating neurological impairment is not to be feared, but dealing with two weeks of being sick with measles is?)

Throughout the presentation, the MDH cavalierly dismissed the valid concerns of Somali parents, despite the fact that they have never done a medical investigation of these children. They instead use “tools” to try and manipulate them. Not once in this document do they advocate notifying parents that the MMR vaccine can cause brain damage, permanent disability, and death. So much for true informed consent.

What else Ms. Bahta didn’t mention: With all the MDH fearmongering about the measles, she failed to mention that the last death in the state of Minnesota with any connection to measles was a toddler who was killed by the MMR VACCINE – NOT by the disease.

Forum participants then moved into a round table discussion to plan:

  1. What can be done to develop clear, concise and consistent messaging across agencies regarding autism or vaccine hesitancy.
  2. What messages should be included?
  3. How can messages be disseminated?
  4. Who can help disseminate them?

A man at my table spoke up immediately (regarding item #1), to emphatically state that we need to convince people that the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. I responded that his statement was not true – and that people shouldn’t be lied to just so they can push a vaccine. He wasn’t happy about being countered, and a lively discussion ensued. Some of his arguments were:

  • Autism predated the MMR – so vaccines don’t cause autism.
  • My son’s autism couldn’t have been caused by vaccines, because other people had autism before 1971 (when the MMR vaccine began being used in Minnesota)
  • And the clincher: “All the science proves that vaccines don’t cause autism”

These ridiculous statements gave me great opportunities to provide actual facts, and others at the table added to the discussion. I was clearly outnumbered, but one Somali stated that all these parents can’t be wrong about what they saw happen to their children. Even after the MDH employee at our table spoke of her absolute trust and faith in the CDC, this young professional was obviously uncomfortable with the dialogue on how best to coerce her people into vaccinating.

What I took away was that when the MDH representative (a newly-hired Somali woman) said the CDC is to be trusted without question, she was essentially saying that her own people – the Somali parents of vaccine-injured children – are not to be trusted. Because they both can’t be telling the truth.

There was discussion of the Somali translators that accompany parents to doctor appointments. Many parents who clearly do not want their children to get the vaccines are desperately asking the translators for advice, and the translators have been telling them not to do it. So MDH now plans to clamp down, and do a better job of vetting their translators. I suspect that instead of instructing translators to give no opinion at all (as they should), MDH will instead provide them with an approved “script” to use when parents ask for advice.

The overarching message of the day was that MDH needs to use Somalis to convince other Somalis to vaccinate their children. All of their other efforts have fallen short, so they must leverage the trust Somalis have in health care workers, and in other Somalis. So MDH has hired several Somali “outreach workers” to help achieve their goal, at tax payers’ expense.

Some of these outreach workers were pointed out and applauded by the group, as if they should be proud of helping coerce their own people. Two of them mentioned that the Somalis just LOVE the glossy, colored vaccine schedules! It sickens me to see these people who have been brainwashed into blind faith in the MDH and the CDC.

As whistleblower Dr. William Thompson stated regarding the CDC “…these senior people just do completely unethical, vile things and no one holds them accountable.”

After two years, surely the MDH is aware of the CDC whistleblower allegations. Until congress decides to investigate, wouldn’t it be prudent for the MDH to do what is necessary to keep ALL Minnesota citizens healthy? They could issue an alert to notify people of the potential CDC corruption, and simply urge caution regarding earlier administration of the MMR vaccine until we have concrete answers. They could request the 10,000 pages of documentation Dr. Thompson provided to congress and do their own investigation. They could be open and honest about the well-known dangers of vaccines. And they could stop targeting one particular ethnic group with blatant coercion tactics simply to keep vaccine rates up.

Sadly, I suspect MDH will keep spending our tax dollars to force vaccines at any cost. And in the case of the Somali population that has been devastated by autism, they are pushing an unsafe, unwanted MMR vaccine on the very population it is likely harming the most.