A mother in Canada who wrote a scathing critique of parents who refuse vaccinations has had her Facebook post shared more than a quarter of a million times.
Jennifer Hibben-White got a call from local health officials outside Toronto, Canada, with news that would frighten any parent: she and her 15-day-old son had been exposed to measles during a routine check-up at a doctor's office. Seven cases of measles have been reported in the Toronto area including the case of a fully vaccinated man who came down with the disease, health authorities said on Wednesday.
After receiving the call, Hibben-White wrote an emotional post on Facebook - targeting not the man with measles but rather parents who don't vaccinate their children: "I won't get angry at or blame the person in the waiting room. I would have likely done the same thing ... you get sick, you go to the doctor. I have no idea what their story is and I will never know. But I do know one thing: If you have chosen to not vaccinate yourself or your child, I blame you."
"And I'm angry," she continued. "Angry as hell."
In the post, Hibben-White also mentioned the death of another of her children from a different disease.
"You know what vaccines protect your children from? Pain. Suffering. Irreparable harm. Death," she wrote. "And you would be the first to line up if you had an inkling of what the death of a child feels like ... the fact is, there was no vaccine for [my daughter]. Not for her illness. And she died."
An outbreak of measles which started at Disneyland in California last month has since spread to 17 US states and has made vaccination a hot political topic in North America, with US presidential candidates making a variety of heavily scrutinised statements on the issue. In Toronto, vaccination rates vary widely - in one school fewer than half of students have received the combined MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine.
The anti-vaccination ("anti-vax") movement first gathered steam after the publication of a now-retracted paper in The Lancet in 1998 by discredited British doctor Andrew Wakefield which indicated a possible link between autism and the MMR vaccine.
Although the paper was widely debated in the UK years ago, culminating in Wakefield being struck off the General Medical Council register in 2010, until now the story has been less well-covered in North America.
Hibben-White's post tapped into an anti-vaxxer backlash - it was shared more than 250,000 times and comments were unanimously positive. One mother who shared the post commented: "I have remained silent on the vaccination issue, until now ... If I were this mother, I would be furious. Vaccinate your children people."
At just over two weeks old, Hibben-White's child is too young to be vaccinated, and she ended her post with a reference to the incubation period of measles.
"Seven more days until I know that my baby is safe. Seven more days," she wrote. "How is your week going, anti-vaxxers?"
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