Roald Dahl’s Heartbreaking Letter About Vaccinations Resurfaces Amid Measles Outbreak

Ronald Dumont/Daily Express/Hulton ArchiveGetty Images

A measles outbreak in Portland and Clark Country in Washington state has caused a public health emergency. The area is well known for being an anti-vaxxer hotspot, allowing the dangerous disease to spread like wildfire through the community. As a result, the World Health Organization has actually gone so far as to declare anti-vaxxers one of the biggest health threats in the world.

In light of that, and parents looking for other ways to protect their children that doesn’t involve a needle, syringe, and a vaccine, British author Roald Dahl’s letter, written after the death of his daughter, has been making the rounds again.

As reported by Fatherly, Dahl’s oldest daughter, Olivia, was 7-years-old in 1962 when she contracted the measles. In those days, measles vaccines didn’t exist, leaving his daughter vulnerable to the disease.

Twenty-four years later, once vaccines were made available to protect against measles, Dahl penned a heartbreaking letter to urge parents to make use of vaccinations to protect their children from the dangers of the terrible disease.

Coming from a parent who suffered an awful loss as a result of measles, it’s difficult to read, and should be read by every parent who still refuses to protect their child against it.

Olivia had been recovering from the illness, with Dahl sharing that he was showing her how to make little animals out of pipe cleaners in her bed one night when things changed.

“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.”

His little girl had contracted a complication from the measles called measles encephalitis. In 1962, nothing could be done to save her. In 1986, when Dahl wrote the letter, science had still not offered up a solution for treating measles encephalitis. Even today, encephalitis as a result of measles is more often than not life-threatening.

What’s even more concerning is that encephalitis is not at all an uncommon side effect from measles.

Despite this, there is something that parents can do to prevent encephalitis.

“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,” Dahl wrote. “In my opinion parents who now refuse to have their children immunized are putting the lives of those children at risk.”

Dahl was utterly devastated by his daughter’s death, and dedicated two of his children’s books to her: James & The Giant Peach before she died, and The BFG after she passed away.