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.
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 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. 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 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.
So what about the risks that your children will run from being immunised?
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 immunisation! 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 immunisation.
So what on earth are you worrying about?
It really is almost a crime to allow your child to go unimmunised.
Roald Dahl, 1986
NINETEEN EIGHTY SIX.
roald dahl was calling out the anti-vaccination movement as self indulgent bullshit //thirty god damn years ago//.
And this is only in recent history. I can’t imagine the numbers if we had data all the way back to 1986.
And thanks to anti-vaxxers, measles is back in the United States.
so in this video they ask 20 strangers to kiss each other for the first time on camera and I THOUGHT THIS LOOKED A LITTLE LIKE HARRY FROM THE SIDE AND I GOT SO SAD
anyway there should be fic of it, of course. harry and nick - two strangers in london - both get asked to do this weird artsy video, and of course they both agree. harry because he’s ~open to whatever~ and nick because his friends think it’ll be a laugh. they get handed a fiver each as they enter the studio. harry’s all big green eyes and pink mouth and he laughs easily when nick says, whispering in front of the camera, “feels like i should be paying for the privilege, to be honest- how old are you, though?”
"nineteen," harry says, putting his hand on nick’s waist, and nick reaches out and adjusts the kid’s beanie, feeling oddly like he knows him already.
"this is weird," he says, wrinkling his nose, and harry smiles and says, "what’s your name again?"
"nick," nick says, faintly, because harry is rubbing his palm slowly up and down nick’s side, big hand curling around his waist. "um. i think we’re supposed to wait til they say, like. to go."
harry nods, biting his full bottom lip. nick’s staring at his mouth, a bit. so what. he’s supposed to kiss it, for the purpose of art and human connection and blah blah blah.
"alright," the director says, in her soft voice. "you can kiss him."
"thank god," harry breathes, cupping nick’s face in both hands and leaning into a long, slow kiss that quickly turns deep and wet.
there’s absolute silence in the studio, except for the wet sounds of their mouths, the shuffle of harry’s feet as he comes closer. nick’s cheeks are heating up under harry’s hands and he’s holding onto harry’s elbows, fingers skirting over the firm swell of his bicep.
i cannot get an erection on camera, nick tells himself, muffling a groan when harry strokes his tongue over the roof of nick’s mouth. everyone will laugh at me and i will die.
he pulls back eventually, because, like, air. is a thing. oxygen. those are both crucial, nick’s pretty sure, though neither seem very important at the moment.
harry’s staring at him, mouth slick and open.
"wow," he says, low, and nick, embarrassingly, lets out a squawk of a nervous giggle.
"er," he says, fanning at his face with one hand. he’s sweating. why is he sweating? ”erm. was that alright?”
he turns to the director. she’s grinning.
"that was lovely," she breathes, waving them off, and nick’s going to put his jacket on and escape with at least part of his dignity intact when harry catches his arm.
"hey," he says, smiling. he has dimples. nick hates them. “want to grab a coffee?”
nick wants to grab a lot more than that.
"sure," he says, keeping his voice level. "uh. wicked."
he hasn’t said wicked since he was about 17.
"wicked," harry echoes, eyes crinkling, and he takes nick’s hand, pulls him out of the studio.
"only you,” aimee says later, when they’re unpacking the entire coffee date - date? meeting? friendly get-together??? - over margaritas later. “only you could pull at some hipster artsy video thing. jesus, nicholas.”
she grabs his drink and drains it, but nick has harry’s phone number in his phone and a squirmy anticipation in his gut, so he can’t be bothered to care.