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Roald Dahl’s Heartbreaking Letter About Vaccination

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

Roald Dahl wrote James and The Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda. He’s one of the greatest children’s authors the world has ever known.

But the following letter he wrote in 1988 is perhaps the most poignant copy he’s ever written. In it, he describes how his daughter died from the measles many years before (h/t to Vox):

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 colored 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 immunized 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 immunized are putting the lives of those children at risk…

So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunized?

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 immunization! 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 immunization.

I don’t know where you stand on vaccinations. It’s a weird world we live in where you even have to take a “stand” on something that saves lives.

But I hope you take this topic seriously. I get the feeling that it’s going to be a major issue in America in the 2016 election. I simply won’t support any candidate who dismisses scientific proof and is willing to put my kids’ health, and even lives, at risk.

I’ve always said I’m not a one-issue voter. But maybe I can be if I’m passionate enough about the issue. This is a big one for me.

A potentially deadly disease that had been completely eradicated returns because parents are more willing to take medical advice from Jenny McCarthy, celebrity faux doctors like Dr. Oz, and pseudoscience bloggers than their own pediatricians? Can I get a big WTF on that one?

For those of you who live outside the U.S., I’m curious: Do you have a vocal anti-vaccination minority, or is this a uniquely American thing? Tell me in the comments.

Pardon me for stepping slightly outside this blog’s usual boundaries. But when a literature giant like Roald Dahl writes a moving letter on a subject you care deeply about, you (or I) can’t help but share.

As Hillary Clinton recently tweeted, “The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids.”

Vaccinations save lives.

Thank you to the late Roald Dahl for sharing his heartbreaking story.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)


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