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Roald Dahl’s Open Letter to Anti-Vaxxers Is More Relevant Than Ever

His seven-year-old daughter died of measles.

If the recent measles outbreak sweeping the Pacific Northwest isn’t enough to prove the importance of vaccinations, this heartbreaking letter from Roald Dahl might be. The author took a passionate stance against anti-vaxxers back in 1986 after his own daughter died of the disease.

“There is today something that parents can do to make sure that this sort of tragedy does not happen to a child of theirs,” Dahl writes. “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.”

Dahl’s daughter Olivia passed away from complications related to the contagious disease when she was just seven years old, a tragic event that Dahl describes at the beginning of the letter. According to the author of beloved children’s books like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, his daughter died just 12 hours after complaining of feeling sleepy.

“It is not yet generally accepted that measles can be a dangerous illness,” he says. “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.”

Dahl then blames the prevalence of measles in Britain on the anti-vaxxers who choose not to vaccinate their kids “out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear.” The late author, who now has a charity dedicated to helping seriously ill children, says, “It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.”

He explains that the risks of vaccinating a child are “almost non-existent,” adding that “there would be more chance of your child choking to death on a chocolate bar than of becoming seriously ill from a measles immunisation.”

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And while Dahl notes that the ideal age for vaccination is 13 months, he stresses that “it is never too late” and tells any kid who has yet to be vaccinated to “beg their parents to arrange for them to have one as soon as possible.”

Read the full letter on Dahl’s website here.