John Oliver Tackles Minnesota’s Measles Outbreak On HBO Show

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The measles outbreak in Minnesota caught the attention of comedian and political commentator John Oliver Sunday night.

“Despite their success, small groups are vocal against vaccines which is nothing new,” said Oliver during his “Last Week Tonight” show.

Oliver took shots at politicians and actors for spreading myths about vaccines.

He also spent several minutes focusing on the number of cases affecting the Somali Community in Minneapolis.

Oliver ended by saying he will have his own son vaccinated.

“In the Somali community in Minnesota, the measles vaccination rate for children dropped to just 42 percent. And that had some very real consequences,” said Oliver.

During his weekly show, John Oliver ranted about vaccination myths — using news clips to get his point across.

“The number of measles cases so far this year (Minnesota= 78 cases) has already outpaced the total number in all the U.S. last year (70 cases),” said Oliver.

“If you boil down the basic assertions that he’s making and the basic facts that he’s presenting, we would say they are accurate,” said Doug Schultz of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Schultz said we’ve gone nearly two weeks without a new case of measles — holding steady at 78 cases in the state. Somali-Minnesotans account for 65 of those cases.

Doctors who work with people in the Somali community say they used the Holy month of Ramadan, which ended this past weekend, to educate people about vaccines.

“There is no other way of preventing measles unless you do the vaccination,” said Dr. Ahmed Mohamed.

Dr. Mohamed is a family physician, and among those working with Somali families. He spent much of Ramadan visiting mosques and promoting the MMR vaccine. He says the biggest challenge is convincing families that there’s no proof the vaccine is linked to autism.

“Always, education is a never ending thing. You have to repeat the message. The more you repeat the more it helps. I think it is helping,” said Dr. Mohamed.

The Department of Health says if there are no new cases of measles by July 29, they will declare the outbreak over in Minnesota.

They also want to remind people that it isn’t just an issue for the Somali community, but for anyone who hasn’t had a MMR vaccine.

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