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Halloween no time for anti-vaccination message

Local columnist

Right up until my junior year of high school, I had never trick-or-treated, because I didn’t want to break the law.

Town leaders weren’t hysterical about sex offenders snatching up kids, but argued a combination of other issues. They feared without supervision on sparsely-lit residential streets, little kids would get hit by cars and older kids would vandalize. Plus, a collective approach was more cost-effective.

So for the first 15 years of my life, the public school was Halloween party headquarters. Students competed to create the best Halloween activity in their classrooms, and citizens donated homemade snacks or store-bought candy, normally delivered in the original store packaging.

Despite these safety measures, my parents insisted on inspecting my candy for the night. My mom told me of evil people putting razors in apples and needles in caramels, and parents have to do safety checks. I tried to argue, “Mother, a sensationalist media trumped up these dangers, or in the very least wildly overstated them,” but it always came out as, “I want my candy, waaaaaaaaaaaaah.”

My parents were always warning about needles inside the candy. Now, a group is arguing the danger is a needle outside the candy.

I read Monday about the anti-vaxxer movement using Halloween to get out its conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism and you shouldn’t vaccinate your children. The innocent-sounding National Vaccine Information Center posted instructions on creating anti-vaccination labels to affix to the back of miniature candy bars.

A few things:

• The anti-vaccination movement fails on scientific fronts. It works through irrational fear, the same fear that convinces me I have every disease whenever I Google my symptoms (last time, I had a disease for horses). It argues you’d go to jail for injecting your children with the ingredients in a vaccine, but that’s because you lack the pharmacology education and experience to mix chemicals correctly.

• It’s neither the time nor the place for such a message. Halloween’s the least serious of holidays, and, “Hey, you in the Thor costume, let me warn you about for-profit medicine,” isn’t likely to stick.

Plus, on the back of a tiny candy bar? On the scale of advertising effectiveness, it’s in the neighborhood of bar coasters and the back of grocery store receipts. You read the front to confirm they aren’t raisins, and ignore the rest. I think the back says, “Not for individual resale,” but that wouldn’t stop anybody desperate enough to do it.

• There is one positive to come from this. You see those candies, and you know to avoid those houses next Halloween. “That’s the house where you get full-size Snickers bars and whooping cough.”

Kids aren’t likely to absorb this anti-vaccine message, but there will no doubt be the parents who fear the worst. They’ll confiscate the bag, check for stickers and then sample a piece to make sure everything tastes right. And then another sample, and another ... wait a second.

My parents were stealing my candy.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 318, or by email:

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