Showing your younger siblings photographs of people dying might sound drastic, but that’s precisely what one 17-year-old boy did in a bid to try and get through to his anti-vaxxer parents.
The worried teenager, from Canada, revealed his mum is refusing to vaccinate his to younger sisters against measles, despite there being a recent outbreak of the highly contagious infectious disease in a nearby town, due to fears that the immunisation could cause other health issues.
Taking to online forum site Reddit, the teen – who goes by the moniker ‘theleakyman’ – revealed he tried to argue his case to his parents over a family dinner, along with his aunt and uncle who are also anti-vaxxers, before resorting to the extreme measure of showing his sisters graphic photographs of people suffering from the potentially fatal disease.
“About 4 hours away from my house, there is a measles outbreak,” he wrote. “I’m trying to convince my mom to get my sisters vaccinated against measles. When I found directly talking to her was ineffective, I thought that talking to my sisters might help. Like, if they thought that they were in danger, my mom might vaccinate, for their peace of mind.”
The teenager admitted to showing his younger siblings a photograph of a child with measles and telling them “this kid might die” and “mom could vaccinate you and protect you but we have to convince her”. However, the girls told their mum, who then accused the older sibling of “harassing” young, immature children.
He added: “My mom is now furious and told me ‘I’m really starting to piss her off’ and ‘when [I] reproduce I can choose to vaccinate my kids’. She also told me that it wasn’t fair to ‘harass’ such a young, immature age group. I responded and told her ‘I tried to ‘harass’ you about it but I guess you’re too immature’.”
He added that one of his sisters is immunocompromised, meaning she has an impaired immune system, leading him to criticise his mother’s decision even further, describing her choice not to vaccinate the girls as “completely counter productive” and “really f***ing stupid”.
The writer, who got vaccinated himself, along with his brother, two years ago as the law in Canada allows people aged 15 and over to make their own medical choices, asked for advice on how to handle the situation, asking: “Am I the asshole for showing pictures of measles victims to my 9 year old little sister?”
People were quick to chime in on the controversial topic, with one person describing his actions as a “necessary evil”, while another user wrote: “She is putting her child’s health on the line for her stupid beliefs. (And possible death) She doesn’t get any sympathy here. If Mom had been a responsible adult and got her children vaccinated then maybe they wouldn’t need to know about the measles. But because they are at risk they are put in a situation where they need to know about vaccines and the measles because they could catch it. They should know what the measles look like so if they do catch it they can treat it early.”
Last year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) revealed that cases of measles have increased dramatically around the world, with multiple countries experiencing severe and protracted outbreaks of the disease in recent years, with more than 110,000 people dying as a result of the disease in 2017.
While WHO acknowledged more than 21 million lives have been saved though measles immunisations since the year 2000, there was a 30 per cent worldwide increase in cases between 2016 and 2017. Experts are now warning that the huge spike could be in direct relation to the anti-vax movement and people spreading false news about the vaccine.
“The increase in measles cases is deeply concerning, but not surprising,” CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Seth Berkley. “Complacency about the disease and the spread of falsehoods about the vaccine in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela and pockets of fragility and low immunisation coverage in Africa are combining to bring about a global resurgence of measles after years of progress.”