Although reporters were barred from the event, Wakefield's visit coincides with a recent measles outbreak in Minneapolis, in several cases in unvaccinated children.
Wakefield's study, published in 1998, popularized the idea that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination causes autism in young children. Though the study was denounced as "deliberate fraud" and Wakefield's British medical license revoked, he still has an extremely loyal following.
Wakefield has met with the Minnesotan Somali community before. Rates of diagnoses of autism have risen sharply in the last ten years within the community and Wakefield has visited multiple times looking for support and participants for a future study on Somali children. Anecdotal evidence suggests that vaccinations have dropped substantially within the local Somali community as a direct result of Wakefield's discredited research.
This time, he visited with parents at Safari Restaurant in Minneapolis just as Hennepin County medical officials are dealing with an outbreak of measles. There have been 11 cases reported so far, in patients ranging in age from a four-month-old baby to a 35-year-old. Three of the cases were in unvaccinated Somali children and the state epidemiologist believes the root cause is an unvaccinated Somali child who recently traveled in Kenya.
Wakefield's visit comes just days before Health Department officials were scheduled to meet with Somali community members to stress the importance of vaccines. They are offering vaccinations at Children's Hospital on Sunday.