British author Roald Dahl fathered five children with his wife, American actress Patricia Neal. The oldest, Olivia, was the apple of his eye. In 1962, 7-year-old Olivia contracted measles, which developed into measles encephalitis, and she died within hours. Dahl wrote about Olivia and his broken heart in a private diary that his family only found long after his death. In 1988, Dahl wrote an open letter to parents about the measles vaccine, published in a pamphlet from the Sandwell Health Authority. It tells about Olivia’s illness and then says,
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.
Read the rest of Dahl’s letter at Buzzfeed. Measles may have been “virtually wiped out” in America in 1988, but the nation is still vulnerable to infection by travelers coming in from other nations, due to the decreasing ratio of vaccinated children in some areas. In fact, the U.S. is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of measles in decades.