Parents are hosting chicken pox parties so their kids can 'get it over with'
For decades now, the trend of 'anti-vaxxing' has become more and more prevalent amongst parents - and it's starting to have some seriously worrying effects. Children are suffering unnecessarily from diseases that were practically eradicated in the west, immunocompromised people are being put at risk by carriers of illnesses, and - in extreme cases - people have even died as a result of not being immunised.
Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, is one such anti-vaxxer. Not a single one of his nine children have been immunised, even though his state mandates that kids must be immunised against certain diseases.
Rather than take the medical route, Bevin sent his children to a "chickenpox party": a gathering hosted by someone with chickenpox. The object of these parties is to infect kids while they're still young and healthy enough to recover from the illness, as there is a commonly-held (albeit incorrect) belief that the disease can only be caught once.
"Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox," Bevin said. "They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbour 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."
Chickenpox parties used to be common practice until 1995, at which point a vaccine was developed. Thanks to the advancement, there is no need for children to suffer the pain of the illness - or worse, the potentially fatal consequences.
"I would never recommend or advise [chickenpox parties]," said Dr. Robert Jacobson, an expert in vaccines and childhood diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. "It's just dangerous. We're no longer living in the 17th century. I really recommend to my parents that they vaccinate their children, that they do it in a timely manner, and they recognize they are doing the right thing for their children."
According to the CDC: "Most children who get chickenpox recover completely. But chickenpox can be serious, even deadly, especially for babies, adolescents, adults, pregnant women, and people with a weakened immune system."
Therefore, it is essential to vaccinate children, and avoid the risk of death or permanent damage that can come from being exposed to the illness for even a short amount of time.
Governor Bevin's anti-vax sentiments are especially dangerous at a time when people in his state are dying from preventable illnesses.
"Kentucky is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of Hepatitis A in the country. It is a major public health risk at this point. The last thing we need is Governor Bevin suggesting that immunisation is not important," said Kentucky Democratic Party spokeswoman, Marisa McNee. "Governor Bevin should reassure the public that he supports the recommendation of the entire medical community with respect to controlling an outbreak of Hepatitis A, which is immunisation."
So far, 44 people have died from hepatitis - a disease for which a vaccine has existed since 1981.
Fortunately for Bevin's children, none of them experienced long-term damage from the chickenpox party. However, that isn't to say that other kids will be as lucky.