As the world awaits a vaccine for COVID-19, vaccination rates for preventable childhood diseases have plummeted in Minnesota and across the country. In May, state health officials reported a staggering 70% drop in measles vaccinations given, compared with one year ago. Unless we reverse this troubling trend, we could find ourselves fighting vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks this fall alongside COVID-19 and influenza.
We have a good idea why immunization rates have dropped. Parents are hesitant to take their children to the doctor; some have lost jobs and/or health insurance coverage; and some clinics needed to close or scale back services. But many pediatricians’ offices have taken significant measures to ensure patient safety, such as designating separate locations or times of day for well-child and sick-child visits, requiring face masks for staff and patients, and even establishing drive-up sites for vaccinations. These efforts are commendable and should give parents the assurance they need to access critical preventive services for their children.
Childhood diseases like measles can spread rapidly if immunization rates drop below the crucial number required for herd immunity. If we’ve learned anything from COVID-19, it’s that protecting on another from infectious disease depends on our individual and collective efforts. We don’t know how long it will be until a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is available, but we do know there are safe and effective vaccines at our disposal to protect our children and our communities from measles, whooping cough and many other illnesses. I implore parents to get their children’s immunizations up to date to ensure the pandemic does not usher in epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases in our communities.
Catherine London, Minneapolis
FIFTH DISTRICT RACE
The money and motivations backing Omar, Melton-Meaux
A common theme of recent articles (such as “Omar challenger draws big money,” July 15), op-ed pieces and letters to the editor regarding Antone Melton-Meaux’s challenge to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar in the Fifth District primary is that supporters of Melton-Meaux say little or nothing about their reasons for supporting his candidacy, other than that he’s running as a Democrat and that he’s not Ilhan Omar.
I know why I’ve voted for Omar in 2018 and 2020. I did so because, like her, I believe that health care, food, shelter and education are human rights. Like her, I believe that human rights should form the foundation of the foreign policy of the United States (anyone who wants to know where Rep. Omar is coming from when she advocates for the human rights of Palestinians and Yemenis should view her Feb. 13, 2019, questioning of the infamous Elliott Abrams regarding his activities in Central America during the Reagan administration — it’s on YouTube).
Like Rep. Omar, I believe that the climate emergency requires the comprehensive and equitable approaches that comprise the Green New Deal. Like Omar, I believe that fundamental changes in policing are urgently needed and must involve the federal government as well as states and municipalities.
Omar’s critics fault her for being insufficiently “focused on the Fifth,” as if a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, free public universities, and guarantees of food and housing would not benefit residents of the district. Those who allege that Omar has not used her time in Congress effectively might want to take a look at the Homes for All Act that she introduced, a massive program designed to ensure housing for all Americans. I stand with Ilhan because she is my voice in Congress.
Clifford Kashtan, St. Louis Park
• • •
In “Omar challenger draws big money,” the reasons given for Antone Melton-Meaux’s successful fundraising is due to outside groups angered at Omar’s anti-Semitic tropes, not-infrequent attacks on the president and her criticism of lobbying groups in politics.
What the article doesn’t mention is that people in the Fifth District are disgusted with her because she speaks in platitudes, with no realistic policy suggestions. Last month her response at a rally immediately after the George Floyd murder was not a voice of calm, but “the Minneapolis Police is rotten to the root … dismantle it … allow for something beautiful to rise.” Well, amid an increase in violence, we are now seeing what dismantling could look like.
Omar also creates more problems for Biden and the Democratic Party when, as our congresswoman, she proclaims “transform every aspect of American society.” Is that what the people of the Fifth District and our nation want rather than thoughtful, measured changes? At the same time, we hear nothing about her working on our behalf to get funding from the federal government to build the Southwest light-rail line or from FEMA, as Gov. Tim Walz has tried to do, to help rebuild Minneapolis.
These are the reasons many in the Fifth are supporting Melton-Meaux, who will work for our district and not use the position for personal fame.
Deborah Deutsch, Minneapolis
• • •
Hypocrisy and self-interest have led Melton-Meaux to attack Omar as a “divider” and lean on corporate interests and conservative donors to oust her. To one of his supporters who took offense to the idea that he has Republican donors because they are not one, facts are facts. Melton-Meaux has taken millions of dollars of corporate money and high-dollar donations, including from Republican donors, and your donations do not change that fact. To the detractors of Ilhan Omar who are not willing to let her apologize for her mistakes, but are willing to support Melton-Meaux, who thinks the assistance of our African-immigrant communities is focusing on Africa instead of the Fifth District, please take a moment to think about which candidate is really the divider in this primary.
Paul Villerius, Minneapolis
• • •
The July 13 counterpoint “Big money is behind challenges to Omar” has the politics of a vote for Omar backward. I believe that President Donald Trump is an existential threat to this country. His dishonesty has been demonstrated repeatedly. Yet I am a relatively small, three-figure donor to Antone Melton-Meaux, otherwise uninvolved in his campaign. I’ve never met him. But he appears to be a dream candidate to represent Minneapolis in Congress.
I have very much hoped that the only prominent person lacking integrity on the ballot would be the president. But Rep. Omar has demonstrated that she cannot pass the most basic tests of integrity. Her lack of interest in representing the interests of Minnesota in Congress is demonstrated by her miserable voting record. It is she, not Melton-Meaux, who is the president’s ideal candidate. Over and over, her actions and statements give the president fodder for attacks on all Democrats. That, in addition to his demonstrated record of community service, is why I support Melton-Meaux.
Peter Lancaster, Minneapolis
• • •
In the DFL primary for the Fifth Congressional District, Omar’s number of missed votes has become an issue. To set the record straight, here are the facts from GovTrack.us. In 2019, Rep. Omar missed 40 of 701 votes and tied for seventh among all 87 freshman House members for the most missed votes. Among her “Squad” colleagues, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., missed 14 votes in 2019; Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., seven; and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., only two. Omar’s fellow Minnesota freshmen Democrats, Angie Craig and Dean Phillips, had perfect attendance. Voters in the Fifth who expect their representative to represent them when the House takes votes have an alternative: Antone Melton-Meaux.
David Aquilina, Richfield