Dark humor often informs Halloween costumes, but this year's vaccination-inspired looks were on a whole new level.

By Maressa Brown
November 01, 2019

Vaccination remains one of the most heated conversations in the country, especially among parents, given that shots protect children from a variety of serious or potentially fatal diseases, including diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis) and others. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that vaccines prevented at least 10 million deaths worldwide between 2010 and 2015. Yet, anti-vaccination trends and variable immunization rates are threatening to derail that progress. It's no wonder the newsworthy, hot button topic inspired various jaw-dropping costumes this Halloween.

Anti-Vax Costumes Were Officially a Halloween 2019 Trend

A woman named Autumn Dayss shared a photo of her "last minute Halloween idea," which she called "Karen and her non-vaccinated child." "Karen" is obviously a reference to the internet archetype (described on Reddit as an "antagonistic female character... an irritating, entitled woman"), and her child is actually a small skeleton in a baby carrier.

Plenty of people who applauded Dayss' dark, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the importance of immunization. The post has racked up 126K shares in a week.

But Dayss is far from the only one who went there this year. Instagram is peppered with lots of "anti-vax parent" costumes, most of which look roughly the same.

One Instagram user named Ariela posted her take on the anti-vax mom alongside a caption that reads, "Just came back from a chicken-pox party with my baby! Excuse my face my hemorrhagic fever had a flare up these essential oils seem to not be working very well better try that onion on the foot thing."

An Anti-Vaxxer's Frightening Take Went Viral, Too

Perhaps even more unnerving was a "costume" posted by a woman who's clearly opposed to vaccines who covered her body in red dots and wrote, "Was trying to think of the least scary thing I could be for Halloween…so I became the measles." Reportedly posted to the InsanePeopleFacebook subreddit, the photo set off a flurry of understandably infuriated comments.

"Would you like to accompany me on my rounds?" a Redditor, who appeared to be a physician, wrote. "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’ and clueless quacks who ‘haven’t done their research’ like me. You can even assist with the spinal tap! Read your favorite vaccine insert to them while they sob in fear and agony. Very cool and very fun!"

Another Redditor noted, "I always thought anti-vaxxers laid on the premise that there’s no reason to get vaccinated because they are 'bad' and the chances of getting one of the diseases is so low, that they'll chance their child getting sick. I never thought that they actually believe that these aren't actually deadly diseases that kill children."

The Truly Scary Facts About Measles

The fact of the matter is that as controversial, frightening, or jaw-dropping as these vaccine-inspired costumes might be, the scariest thing is seeing the spread of serious, potentially fatal illnesses.

For instance, measles is highly contagious and can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It was declared eliminated (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the U.S. in 2000, thanks to a highly effective vaccination program.

Yet, this year, the CDC has reported 1,250 cases of the disease, which they state is "the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1992. They point out that "measles is more likely to spread and cause outbreaks in U.S. communities where groups of people are unvaccinated," and the majority of cases were among people who didn't get their shots.

And WHO notes that despite the fact that we have a safe and cost-effective vaccine to prevent the disease, there were 110,000 measles deaths globally, mostly among children under the age of five, in 2017.

The bottom line: Measles, along with various other diseases that can be prevented via immunization, are no laughing matter. Here's hoping that these viral costumes raise awareness, ultimately encouraging those who might not comprehend the gravity of the issue to get educated and reconsider their stance.