LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — He wrote classic children’s books like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach.”
But it’s a letter Roald Dahl penned 27 years ago urging parents to vaccinate their children after losing his daughter to measles in the 1960s that is now making headlines.
CBS2’s Erica Nochlin sat down with his daughter, Lucy Dahl, who shared the devastating effect the disease had on their family.
She remembers her older sister, Olivia, as if they knew each other.
“She was a bright light,” Lucy said of her sibling, just 7-years-old when she died from measles in 1962, before a vaccine existed and before Lucy was born.
“When she died, that light just disappeared [from] our family. Home was really dark for a long time,” Lucy recalled.
Their mother was actress Patricia Neal.
Their father was known as one of the greatest storytellers of the 20th century, dedicating “James and the Giant Peach” and “The BFG” to Olivia.
More than two decades after his daughter’s death, in 1988, he also wrote a letter to the public. Titled “MEASLES: A Dangerous Illness,” he called it “almost a crime” for some parents not to immunize their children.
“‘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,” he wrote in part.
“I do agree with that. I think that it is a crime,” Lucy nods.
When her father heard some parents were choosing not to vaccinate, she says he didn’t understand because he didn’t have the choice.
“He wasn’t subtle with his words,” Lucy recalled of her late father.
For the Dahl family, that vaccine would have provided a chance for Olivia to avoid the illness.
Now, amid a measles outbreak centered in California and ongoing debate about vaccinations, Lucy is using this moment to encourage parents to immunize their children.
“If you love your child, immunize your child. Please immunize your child,” she said.
The full letter penned by Roald Dahl, “MEASLES: A Dangerous Illness,” can be read on Dahl’s website.