In August 2015, I wrote and published my first book - The Measly Virus - a picture book that promotes positive awareness of vaccinations to children and adults alike. The book is inspired by Riley Hughes, a four-week-old baby who died in my hometown of Perth, Western Australia from Pertussis (more commonly known as Whooping Cough) in March 2015.
Riley's death left me shocked - I couldn't believe that an infant in this day and age could possibly die of a historic disease; something I naively thought had been eradicated from Australia (if not the world) long ago. So I did some research, and was horrified to learn of the existence of an increasing population of vaccine objectors that were present not only in Australia but all over the world.
It was scary to learn that the cohort leading this anti-vaccine movement stands firmly against the science of vaccination, spouts misinformation that embellishes the risks and ignores the benefits of vaccines, and encourages hesitant parents down a path of confusion, anxiety and inaction. It is unacceptable to me that vaccine-preventable disease is reemerging because of low vaccination rates, and that vulnerable people like Riley are dying as a result.
For me, hearing of Riley's death brought home the fact that a vaccine-preventable disease is not a harmless illness, but instead an indiscriminant, resilient, and deadly force - one that can only be stopped by herd immunity created through high vaccination rates. After all, what hope do vulnerable babies and immunosuppressed people have if the community can't shield them? And the thought that Riley's fate could just as easily have been the fate of one of my daughters inspired me to take positive action and become a vaccine advocate!
So, I got busy writing a pro-vaccine picture book... a book that could teach children the importance of vaccines and herd immunity in a fun way, and help to inspire a sense of social responsibility in kids at a young age. A book dedicated to Riley, who unlike my children would never get a chance to cuddle his favourite toy, take his first steps, or speak his first word.
In August 2015, I was proud to publish The Measly Virus - a lively story with an important message. All in rhyme and accompanied by bright illustrations, the tale is of a young girl who is being followed by a cheeky, impertinent virus monster that is set to ensnare her and make her sick. But the young girl knows that if she gets sick, then her grandma and baby sister could get really sick and maybe even die, so she decides to be a superhero and get her vaccinations so that she can protect herself and her family.
The feedback on my book so far has been amazing and humbling, with parents all over the world telling me that their children are inspired to be brave and have their injections to protect their friends and family.