Woman's Halloween costume mocking anti-vaxxers ignites debate

A woman’s “last minute Halloween idea” that was posted to Facebook has ignited fierce debate.

The young woman, who goes by the name ‘Autumn Dayss’ on social media, posted a selfie photo of herself with a small skeleton that appeared to be strapped in a baby-carrier.

Her accompanying caption read: “My last minute Halloween idea lol”, while across the image were the words: “Going to a costume party tonight as Karen and her non-vaccinated child.”

For context, the name ‘Karen’ is a popular slang word that’s used in online meme culture. The name is generally seen as a catch-all term for an irritating, entitled woman with little self-awareness.

While the vast proportion of Facebook users found Ms Dayss’ Halloween costume and its inherent jab at parents who refused to vaccinate their kids “hilarious”, some comments called it “disgusting and vile”.

Autumn Dayss' Halloween costume showed her holding a skeleton to represent a baby who'd died because it hadn't been vaccinated.
Autumn Dayss' anti-vaxxer costume proved controversial online. Source: Facebook

Since being posted on October 26, the photo has amassed 36,000 reactions, 125,000 shares and more than 11,000 comments.

But since it was posted, the photo also has “cruel or sensitive content” warning on it, which resulted in it been hidden from automatic viewing. It is unclear when this warning started to appear.

More than a few people found this in itself hilarious, with one person joking the censorship had been brought about “all the Karens complaining”.

Another joked Ms Dayss had “upset the soccer moms who run Facebook”.

One woman hit back at the anti-vaxxer costume with a Halloween idea of her own.

Heather Simpson posted a photo of herself covered in red dots with the caption: “Was trying to think of the least scary thing I could be for Halloween… so I became the measles.”

Heather Simpson's Halloween costume showed her covered painted-on red spots to represent measles in order to make the point that measles were not 'scary'.
Heather Simpson was accused of fuelling the myth that children should not be vaccinated against diseases. Source: Facebook

Ms Simpson was quickly hit with backlash for the costume, including from a medical professional who wrote: “Would you like to accompany me on my rounds?

“You can tell our measles encephalitis and viral sepsis patients, the ones in comas and seizures and high fevers, that their suffering isn’t all that bad and is just being exaggerated by ‘Big Pharma’.

“You can even assist with the spinal tap! Read your favourite vaccine insert to them while they sob in fear and agony. Very cool and very fun!”

The topic of vaccines has been become an incredibly contentious issue in recent years due to a 1998 paper which claimed there was a link between vaccines and autism.

Despite that original study being retracted and its author being struck off the UK medical register in 2010 for “callous, unethical and dishonest” behaviour, the myth persists.

According to the US-based Mayo Clinic, “researchers haven't found a connection between autism and childhood vaccines”.

In fact, “dozens of high quality studies and reviews over more than 15 years have shown absolutely no link” between vaccines and autism, The Conversation reported in 2017.

While a strong majority of parents have been shown to support vaccines, anti-vaccination rates around the world are rising.

The World Health Organisation identified the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines as one of 10 top threats to global health in 2019.

In April of this year, the ABC reported there had already been 92 confirmed cases of measles, compared to 103 for the whole of 2018, and 81 for the whole of 2017.

Just five years prior, Australia was declared measles free. High national vaccination rates were credited with the virus having been kept largely at bay.

According to the Department of Health, about one in 15 people infected with measles contract pneumonia and one in 1000 developed brain swelling – the latter can lead to brain damage or death.

In addition, a person who contracted measles many years previously can still carry the risk of developing the fatal and devastating brain disorder known as subacute sclerosing panencephalitis.

In 2017, there were 110,000 measles deaths globally – most of them were children under the age of five.

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