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Dr. Abdirahman Mohamed, a Minneapolis Somali family practice physician, contends Wakefield has caused a global hysteria that has cost lives. He said he has warned the Somali community to stay away from the researcher.

“He’s using a vulnerable population here, mothers looking for answers,” Mohamed said. “He’s providing a fake hope.”

Hodan Hassan, of Minneapolis, said she stopped vaccinating her four children after her daughter Geni, now 6, was diagnosed with autism when she was about a year old. Hassan said she went to Wakefield’s presentation in December and considered him a hero. Then a doctor friend urged her to take a closer look at the rejection of Wakefield’s research.

“I feel personally hurt because I believed in him and trusted him and now I find out all these lies and other things out there,” said Hassan, who is currently getting all her children up to date on their shots. Minnesota requires that all children enrolled in school be vaccinated against measles and other common diseases, but parents can opt out for “conscientiously held beliefs.”

Health officials are working with Somali community leaders to urge more parents to get their children vaccinated, though few people have taken advantage of recent clinics. One clinic conducted last weekend by Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis prepared 600 doses, but only 20 children and four adults showed up. Three were Somalis, said Patsy Stinchfield, director of the infectious disease program for Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

“There is still a significant level of concern in the Somali community, and deservedly so, acknowledged said Minnesota Department of Public Health spokesman Buddy Ferguson, noting scientists still don’t know what causes autism.

“What we can tell people is that numerous attempts have been made to test the idea scientifically that there’s a link between vaccines and autism using large, well-designed studies,” he said. “They’ve never been able to find a link.”