Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Immunization for Measles

Sorry, I am not usually an immunization Nazi (whatever that is) but this article that Roald Dahl wrote just got to me.

MEASLES: A dangerous illness by ROALD DAHL

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 fi ngers 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. In America, where measles immunization 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 immunized, 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 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. So what on earth are you worrying about? It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go immunized. 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 immunization 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.

PLEASE NOTE: this article was written some 23 years ago and as a result, the numbers are significantly different to today, thanks to people taking his advice.

Death from measles is now uncommon in UK and the number of cases are down to around 1500 per year. It is extremely important to ensure that people are encouraged to vaccinate to get these numbers even lower. The number of measles has been rising in the last few years - we need more people to continue to take Roald's advice.


Scattered Mom said...

Wow. What a horrible thing to go through. I don't think I was ever immunized for measles, because my Mom says that I caught it. Along with mumps and chicken pox. Yuk.

Bluestem said...

Just another reason to love Roald Dahl, one of my very favorite authors.

jonsmom said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I'm going to spread a link to your blog on Twitter, YouBeMom, and UrbanBaby (and Jonsroom, of course). Hopefully, in this age of Jenny McCarthyism, this will help to make a difference.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The footnote says that numbers are lower today--but because of the vocal and completely scientifically-unfounded anti-vaccine lobby, there has been a resurgence of measles, especially in the UK and Europe, where an epidemic is in progress. Please vaccinate to protect your children and mine.

Shea's Mom said...

Wow! Thank you. I am getting hits from all over the world for this post.

Welcome to everybody!

Related Posts with Thumbnails