Higgledy piggledy Wiggledy wump, I met a man Who caught a mump: With his left cheek lumpy And his right cheek bumpy – Higgledy piggledy Wiggledy wump.
Higgledy piggledy Sniggledy sneezle, I met a man Who caught a measle: With his chest all dots And his face all spots – Higgledgy piggledy Sniggledy sneezle.
– Alligator Pie, Dennis Lee, 1939
I read this book to the kids the other night. My daughter loves the illustrations and this one in particular. She asked me what a mump and measle was. I explained that they were illnesses caused by germs (viruses) but that most of us don’t get them anymore because of vaccines. She kind of understands what vaccines are, I explained how it’s a needle that she gets that protects her from illnesses like the one described in the story. She seemed satisfied with that, so we continued reading the book.
But my mind stayed on Higgledy Piggledy, primarily because of the news recently. There have been outbreaks of measles in a few Canadian cities, mostly in communities where the vaccination rates are frighteningly low. In the nation’s capital, Ottawa, a young boy contracted measles after returning from the Philippines, a trip he took with his parents. The child wasn’t vaccinated. Upon returning home, he became ill and went to not one, not two, but three different walk-in clinics (including an emergency room) before getting diagnosed. Meanwhile, the child was infecting his classmates at school, not to mention a potentially vulnerable population in the ER. Within a few weeks, another four cases were confirmed. Another outbreak is also happening in British Columbia.
I’ve written a lot about vaccines. I’m not going to belabor the point, I believe vaccines work and I believe they are safe. I don’t believe they cause autism and I believe that, in the end, after all is said and done, vaccines save lives.
Back in 1939, Dennis Lee was born. Decades later he wrote a poem about mumps and measles. He likely had the illnesses as a child. He probably recovered. Not everyone he knew would have been that lucky.