As the recent measles outbreak in the U.S. grows, fueling a debate about parents who choose not to vaccinate their children, a 27-year-old letter written by beloved author Roald Dahl explaining his passionate stance on the issue has gone viral.
Dahl, who wrote classics including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda, penned a letter in 1988, two years before he died, begging parents to not deny their children vaccinations “out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear.” Dahl explained:
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 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.
Olivia, to whom James and the Giant Peach and The BFG was dedicated, died in 1962—before there was a measles vaccine. More than two decades later, Dahl told British parents that their refusal to vaccinate their own children was “almost a crime” and called for mandatory immunization.
Read the full letter on Roald Dahl’s website here.