I saw a letter on Facebook from author Roald Dahl (author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) concerning vaccination and his daughter’s death from measles. I’m quoting it here in its entirety.
Olivia, my eldest daughter, caught measles when she was seven years old. As the illness took its usual course I can remember reading to her often in bed and not feeling particularly alarmed about it. Then one morning, when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were not working together and she couldn’t do anything.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked her.
“I feel all sleepy,” she said.
In an hour, she was unconscious. In twelve hours she was dead.
The measles had turned into a terrible thing called measles encephalitis and there was nothing the doctors could do to save her. That was twenty-four years ago in 1962, but even now, if a child with measles happens to develop the same deadly reaction from measles as Olivia did, there would still be nothing the doctors could do to help her.
On the other hand, there is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs. They can insist that their child is immunised against measles. I was unable to do that for Olivia in 1962 because in those days a reliable measles vaccine had not been discovered. Today a good and safe vaccine is available to every family and all you have to do is to ask your doctor to administer it.
It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness. Believe me, it is. In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunised are putting the lives of those children at risk. In America, where measles immunisation is compulsory, measles like smallpox, has been virtually wiped out.
Here in Britain, because so many parents refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised, we still have a hundred thousand cases of measles every year. Out of those, more than 10,000 will suffer side effects of one kind or another. At least 10,000 will develop ear or chest infections. About 20 will die.
LET THAT SINK IN.
Every year around 20 children will die in Britain from measles.
So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?
They are almost non-existent. Listen to this. In a district of around 300,000 people, there will be only one child every 250 years who will develop serious side effects from measles immunisation! That is about a million to one chance. I should think there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.
So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.
The ideal time to have it done is at 13 months, but it is never too late. All school-children who have not yet had a measles immunisation should beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.
Incidentally, I dedicated two of my books to Olivia, the first was ‘James and the Giant Peach’. That was when she was still alive. The second was ‘The BFG’, dedicated to her memory after she had died from measles. You will see her name at the beginning of each of these books. And I know how happy she would be if only she could know that her death had helped to save a good deal of illness and death among other children.
It kind of humanizes the whole thing to hear a fairly well-known author make this argument. I mean, why would you not do something to keep other kids from suffering the way your child did? How are people that stupid?!?!?!?!?
Someone sent me an argument by my official troll. Here it is in its entirety:
I’ve said it before so I’ll just reiterate it – I totally understand parents NOT wanting to give them to their children. But whereever one stands on the issue, I don’t think it is appropriate to say things like:
“As far as I’m concerned, not vaccinating your child is about as irresponsible as driving drunk with your toddler in the back seat jumping around without a child restraint.”
My kids have had some vaccines and I’ve passed on others. I did not follow the schedule at all for Rosie because I thought it was too much too soon – and I agonized about all of it. But bottom line for me is that Doctors and hospitals aren’t always right. They just aren’t. I know that’s hard for people to accept but it’s true. They media also lies and sensationalizes things. Right now it’s measles. But the death rate of measles is less than 0.1%. Prior to the vaccine it was way less than that. So let’s quit guilting each other okay? Here’s a post I wrote earlier this year on the topic. This also seems like a reasonable case for when to vaccinate and which vaccines to get. (Source: Quick Take #7)
Let’s do the numbers here. The USA has 300 million people. If all of them get measles and we assume a death rate of 0.1%, that means a death rate of 300,000 people. That would be equal to obliterating most of the population of North Dakota or a few of the larger cities in the USA.
Incidentally, the study about MMR vaccines in Canada that all the anti-vaxers on my wall are quoting to try and show causation between measles and autism actually shows an increase in febrile seizures amongst those who are either selectively vaccinated or who have been on a delayed schedule. I’m guessing that none of them have had the “joy” of watching their child start seizing? I have. It’s terrifying.
Responding to the arguments that it wasn’t that bad for my official troll when she had it, she had a mild case. She is also the only baby boomer I’ve encountered who doesn’t have some horror story about a sibling ending up in the hospital, ending up deaf, or dying from measles. (I’m a mainline Christian. My church is full of people in that age group and I’ve asked all the ones with whom I deal.) I truthfully cannot understand why a parent would put their child at risk of contracting something that is that hideous and be so blasé about watching them suffer.
Let’s also factor in people who can’t get the vaccine such as children under 12 months old, transplant patients, cancer patients, and people with other health conditions that preclude being vaccinated. Are we just supposed to enclose them in a plastic bubble and tell them “good luck”? Many of these people *HAVE* to be outside in the world and people who don’t vaccinate themselves or their kids put all of them at great risk. Measles is highly contagious and can remain in the air and on surfaces for hours. Why would you be so selfish as to put them at risk? I’m arguing this because I live with someone who has a severely compromised immune system due to chemo and a child who hasn’t met a virus that he doesn’t want to engage. Please, for the love of all things holy, stop putting them at risk!