A few days ago, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin stated in a radio interview that he purposely got his nine unvaccinated children infected with chickenpox while they were younger. This is an unfortunately common approach to immunize children, but it is not without its dangers.
These so-called “chickenpox parties” came about to make children contract the disease before they are older and thus more likely to develop complications. Despite this, a small number of people infected with the virus do develop serious complications, which in some case can become fatal. The vaccine is the safest option available.
“Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox,” Bevin said in an interview with WKCT, a Bowling Green talk radio station, as reported by Associated Press. “They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it. They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”
The chickenpox vaccine became available in the US in 1995. It has 100 percent effectiveness against severe forms of the disease and 98 percent effectiveness against all forms. Before the vaccine was available, there were 4 million cases of chickenpox per year in the US, with over 10,000 people taken to the hospital and between, 100 and 150 deaths each year.
The chickenpox virus remains even years after it has been contracted and can cause shingles later in life, resulting in incredibly painful rashes on the trunk of the body. Kentucky requires that children entering kindergarten to be vaccinated against the disease. Parents can avoid that if they have religious exemptions or if they can prove that the child in question has already had chickenpox.
Talking about the vaccine, the Republican governor said in the interview: “And I think, why are we forcing kids to get it? If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child… But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise. This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t.”
The chickenpox vaccines contain live attenuated viruses. It’s a “chickenpox party” in a vial, but it has the advantage of not making your kid miserable and helping them protect pregnant or immunosuppressed people from this dangerous disease.
[H/T: Associated Press]