Woman Dresses Up as 'Anti-Vax Mom' for Halloween & People Have Strong Feelings

Autumn Dayss Halloween costume
Autumn Dayss/Facebook

It's no secret that the vaccine debate has reached fever pitch in the last few years -- and you need only look as far as the Facebook comment threads to see it in all its glory. Yet recently, just as the anti-vax movement seems to be growing louder in some pockets of the internet, so have the arguments launched by pro-vaccine advocates, who say that anti-vaxxers are to blame for the recent measles outbreaks. The latest voice in that crusade appears to be Autumn Dayss, a woman on Facebook who recently shared a photo of herself dressed as an anti-vax mom for Halloween -- which is catching a LOT of heat, from both sides of the aisle.

  • Dayss posted the image on Friday, where it's since been shared more than 120,000 times and drawn comments from more than 11,000 people.

    "My last minute Halloween idea," Dayss wrote in her Facebook caption, besides a selfie taken from Snapchat. In it, Dayss smiles while wearing what appears to be a makeshift baby carrier -- which holds a small skeleton.

    "Going to a costume party tonight as Karen and her non-vaccinated child," the caption over the image reads. 

    In other words: Karen and her dead child.

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  • The image is, in a word, shocking. But then again, it's meant to be.

    Many people left comments saying Dayss' attempt at humor went too far -- even if the message is important.

    "Disgusting and heartless," wrote one commenter. "It’s NEVER okay to joke about anyone losing a child."

    "This is just ugly," wrote another.

    One woman called the costume "vile," adding, "Way to go putting your complete lack of class on display for the world. Your mama must be so proud."

    Others were shocked that Dayss, whose profile previously suggested she's in med school, would post such a callous thing.

    "It's disgusting to see a person that's supposed to be caring for all individuals joking about dead children," one person wrote.

  • Others, however, actually thought the whole thing was pretty funny.

    For one thing, hundreds of users tagged their friends in the post, along with laughing emojis. Others commented that people who were outraged needed to "calm down" and realize that Dayss was just exercising a little "gallows humor."

    "It's obviously a joke!" wrote one person.

    "That’s so funny!" wrote one person. "Even though I am unvaccinated myself I still find it hilarious!"

    Some were also shocked when Facebook marked the post as "sensitive," blurring the image and requiring users to request to view it first.

    "All these sensitive Susan’s are killing me right now," one person said. "These comments! I love that it has to be covered now ... "

  • Many argued that the really horrifying part of this whole thing wasn't actually the costume itself but the parents who choose not to vaccinate.

    "What is disgusting is not vaccinating your child and them potentially dying from preventable diseases," one person shot back.

    Meanwhile, others took a moment to dole out a few insensitive cracks of their own ... 

    "Jokes about anti-vaxxers never get old," one person wrote. "Neither do their children."

  • Whatever your stance on the costume itself, the topic is pretty timely, given the current issues surrounding vaccine hesitancy.

    In fact, the World Health Organization declared vaccine hesitancy to be among the 10 biggest global health threats in 2019.

    "Vaccine hesitancy -- the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines -- threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases," the WHO reported on its website. 

    Plus, the science is clear and indisputable: Vaccines save lives.

    "Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease -- it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved," the WHO website also noted.

  • Still, health professionals are finding it increasingly difficult to combat the groundswell of misinformation that circulates on social media.

    That's partly what inspired Beth Purkey, an ER nurse from Austin, Texas, to recently pen her own viral Facebook post, in which she shot down the many mistruths she's heard repeated about vaccines -- one by one.

    In her post, Purkey mainly addressed common flu vaccine myths, which include the flu shot causing the flu and the belief that drug companies merely want to push vaccines for profit.

    "I have always wondered how so many people think these things that are just absolutely false," Purkey told CafeMom. But after stumbling upon a recent Facebook article about the flu vaccine, she realized what was behind it all. 

    "I ended up reading the comments to the article and BAM, there was the answer to my question," she continued. "That's how so many people end up misinformed. Social media." 

  • In fact, a quick scroll through the comment thread on Dayss' post reveals a lot of this same misinformation.

    "Look at Karen's bones showing all types of damage," wrote one person. "Good thing the kid has a smile on her face. But I bet the kid kinda gets tired of caring for Karen and her vaccine injuries since her bones are out like that. I wonder if Karen knows vaccine makers have paid and will continue to pay for their injuries made to those hurt."

    For one thing, vaccine injuries are incredibly rare and typically mild, according to the Health Resources & Services Administration, resulting mostly in what amounts to an allergic reaction. For another, there's no medical evidence to support the claim that vaccine manufacturers are peddling the immunizations solely for profit, as this user suggested.

  • But however noble the message behind Dayss' costume may be in dispelling the myths, it's hard not to see that it toes a very tricky line.

    As many commented, the insensitivity of it all -- particularly as it pertains to innocent children -- isn't everyone's idea of something humorous.

    "I don't care what side of the line you're on," one person wrote. "You're a special kind of stupid and sick individual to mock a dead child or someone who has lost a child."

  • Speaking with CafeMom, Dayss shed some more light on the inspiration behind the costume -- as well as the intense scrutiny it's received.

    "To be honest, I almost didn't go to that party where that costume was worn," she says, explaining that she got out of work late and was really tired that night. But at the last minute, she decided to rally.

    As for where the idea came from, she says it wasn't something she set out to do initially.

    "The party theme was 'Face Your Fear,' and originally I was supposed to be La Llorona, as I grew up with that legend [from American folklore] and it scared me as a kid," she continues. "But again, I was tired and that's a lot of effort. So, as someone who works in the medical field, I went as a modern fear: An anti-vaxxer."

    She explains that it was actually her fiance's friend who gave her the nickname "Karen" -- something that many people on Facebook found to be an unfair dig. But Dayss is genuinely shocked that the post has garnered so much reaction in just a few short days.

    "The only reason why that post went public is because my friend, who is a pediatric RN, asked me to make it public so that way she could share it on her Facebook page," Dayss continues.

  • And as for what she thinks of the many (many) comments the post is getting? Dayss is undeterred.

    "For the people who support me and the idea of preventive care, I say keep up the good work and remember to get your flu vaccine!" she tells CafeMom. "As for those who are being negative/the anti-vaxxers, it truly scares me that a lot of people don't believe in the science of modern medicine."

    Dayss says she's alarmed by some of the claims many of the commenters are making on her post, many of which "are based around feelings and false ideas posted on the internet" rather than concrete evidence. 

    "As someone who has watched disease outbreaks happen and take lives, I just want people to trust the medical personnel that studied hard to save lives and keep others healthy with preventive care," she says. 

    At the end of the day, Dayss says she has "no regrets" about the costume, andis grateful for the "louder voice" she's been given since going viral. Ultimately, she hopes to use it for good and spread more awareness about important causes she feels passionate about.