It’s astonishing to me that there are people who are so dead-set against vaccinating their children that they somehow feel it is safer to sicken their children by exposing them to “wild” disease. They argue that the “natural” immunity that their child will get (after suffering a long bout of discomfort and risk of complications from an unpredictable illness) will serve them better in the long run than the immunity that is offered through a vaccine. But they are dangerously mistaken.
It is no secret that vaccine refusers often use social media and various parenting forums to arrange pox parties, facilitate the mailing of infected lollipops to those who live too far to attend, and even advise parents to “pop their child’s chickenpox sores and rub them all over their other children to ensure they all get infected”.
Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up! This is the kind of advice I read on parenting forums all the time.
But, what I don’t understand is what makes these parents think that by infecting their children in this way that they are going to be better off than if they had been vaccinated. The misconception that wild viruses and “natural” immunity are better is just plain wrong. And what makes chickenpox worse is that these parents aren’t avoiding the disease, but rather purposely infecting their children rather than get them vaccinated.
If parents are going to take their chances with the wild varicella virus, it’s important that they first acknowledge the risks. While many people may come through a chickenpox infection with nothing more than a few days of ice baths, gallons of calamine lotion and some unsightly scars that linger once the itchy scabs fall off, there are cases in which varicella can result in serious complications, hospitalizations and even death. While vaccine hesitant parents may proudly declare that they had chickenpox and survived, those that did not are no longer here to tell their story.
According to recent reports in The Gainesville Sun, there is a chickenpox outbreak in Florida that has recently spread to five different schools. Currently, the outbreak involves 65 cases in which 26 children were infected from the Bhaktivedanta Academy, 25 children from the Alachua Learning Center, one child in a public school and 13 others — four adults, eight children and one infant.
Before you go dismissing this as “just a few cases of chickenpox”, please read Josh’s story, recently highlighted by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Josh’s mother, Bev Connelly, talks openly about her son and says,
“… our world changed forever on April 13, 1996, when Josh died suddenly from chickenpox. I couldn’t believe that chickenpox could be that severe. I was one of seven kids, and we had all had chickenpox as children, and we knew lots of other people who had it too. No one had ever died.”
Unfortunately, Bev explains that Josh contracted chicken pox right around the time that the vaccine was first introduced.
“When Josh got chickenpox, the vaccine was new. His doctor was offering it when kids came in for their annual check-up. Josh’s check-up would have been in July.”
Bev goes on to say,
“Sadly, the doctor told me that he had been having trouble convincing parents to get the vaccine for their children. I always believed in vaccines, so I would like to think that I would have gotten the vaccine when it was offered in July, but I never had the chance. When Josh died, the local newspaper ran a story about him. After that, the doctor said he had an easier time convincing people to get their child vaccinated. I wished so much that I still had Josh . . . that I still had that chance to make the decision about the chickenpox vaccine, but I knew, for us, it was too late and I took comfort in knowing that when people heard about Josh, they decided to protect their children from the same thing. It was like Josh’s gift—not only to me, but to others. “
Unfortunately, even 15 years after the vaccine has been introduced, there are parents who still refuse this particular vaccine. Not only are they refusing the vaccine, but there is evidence that some are actively seeking a varicella infection through various parenting forums and social media outlets like the “Find a Pox Party in Your Area” Facebook page. People have even been known to mail chicken pox lollipops and other contaminated items to help spread the varicella infection to children in various areas of the country.
Obviously, these actions come from parents that believe it is better to infect their child “naturally” with the live varicella virus than have them attain immunity through the use of a safe and controlled vaccine. But one must wonder if they have ever stopped to consider that mailing these items are not only illegal, but potentially dangerous as they can be exposing their children to a whole host of other infections.
However, as I read reports regarding the current cases in Florida, there are a few other points that I would like to offer for discussion. Read more…