Post #2: Low Vaccination Rates in the United States and the Outbreaks they Cause

I have finally finished most of my research and I am in the process of outlining my paper. Most of my time so far has been spent sifting through journal articles and books in order to understand why people choose not to get vaccinated. So far, I have found a few main reasons that parents choose not to vaccinate their children. Today, many parents believe that vaccines are not necessary and therefore choose not to vaccinate their children. Most parents today have not seen the diseases vaccines prevent against so therefore they do not understand the consequences of the disease. Another common belief is that natural immunity is safer and produces better immunity. While natural immunity does often produce stronger immunity than vaccination, getting a disease can often lead to serious complications or death, which is not exactly a good option. A lot of parents also believe that their children receive too many vaccinations at once and that these vaccines overwhelm their children’s immune systems. However, research suggests that children are exposed to far more pathogens in the environment every day than in vaccines. Lastly, I have found that one of the most common reasons parents choose not to vaccinate their children with the MMR vaccine is due to concerns about the safety of the vaccine. Many people believe that the MMR vaccine causes autism, even though countless scientific studies have proven this to be false.

I have also been researching recent measles outbreaks to try to find trends as to why people in these communities choose not to get vaccinated. One of the most interesting outbreaks I have researched is the 2017 measles outbreak in a Somali community in Minnesota. Between April 10, 2017, and May 31, 2017, there were 65 cases of measles linked to this outbreak. Out of the 65 total cases, 62 were unvaccinated. Eighty-five percent of the cases linked to this outbreak occurred in people of Somali descent. Since the Somali community in Minnesota has an extremely low vaccination rate, outbreaks can easily occur. To maintain herd immunity to keep measles out of the population, 95% of the population needs to be vaccinated. In 2014, the first dose MMR vaccination rate in Hennepin County, Minnesota was a staggering 35.6%. Interestingly, the first dose MMR vaccination rate in Hennepin County, Minnesota was over 90% in 2006. The drastic decline in the MMR vaccination rate in this community is due to the belief by many members of this community that the vaccine causes autism. In 2007, the Minneapolis public schools released data that showed that more Somali children were in special education classes than children of other races. This led to a drastic decline in the MMR vaccination rate, as can be seen in the chart below. Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 7.14.30 PM

One of the most important lessons from this outbreak is the efforts of public health officials to increase the vaccination rate. After the outbreak, public health officials from the Minnesota Department of Public Health worked with members of the Somali community to improve vaccination rates. They created events to educate about the dangers of measles and the benefits of the MMR vaccine. They primarily used oral communication to do so as it is the preferred method of communication in this community. Thanks to the efforts of these public health officials and members of the community, the average number of MMR doses administered per week in Minnesota went from 2700 to 9964 in the weeks following these public health efforts in 2017. The public health response to this outbreak shows just how important it is to work with community members and to respect their traditions and customs when educating them about vaccination. Since the leaders of this community were also encouraging vaccination, the people were much more receptive to vaccination. Creating a public health response that fits the needs of each community is extremely important when trying to encourage vaccination after a measles outbreak.

In my paper, I plan to discuss why people choose not to get vaccinated, major outbreaks that have occurred recently and the reasoning behind them, and public health efforts that can be made to increase MMR vaccination rates and prevent outbreaks in the future. I am excited to finally get started with my paper and tie all of my research together!