Chicken Pox Parties

Filed under: In The News

sick childDespite the fact that the mainstream medical community denies a link between vaccinations and autism, more and more parents are choosing not to have their children inoculated against childhood diseases. And while every state allows some avenue of exemption from the vaccinations usually required to enter school, there are none that I am aware of that allow parents to pick and choose which vaccinations they will skip. You either opt out completely or you vaccinate according to your state's requirements. But for some parents in New York, choosing to vaccinate their children is not an all-or-nothing proposition. While they are willing to risk the perceived dangers of receiving shots for certain diseases, they are not willing to do so for chicken pox.

"Measles, mumps, whooping cough...I'm worried about those diseases, so my daughter has had those vaccines. Chicken pox is a joke," says one mom.

This creates a problem in that the state of New York requires children entering school to either have had the varicella vaccine, which protects against chicken pox and shingles, or to have had the actual virus. The solution for these parents is obvious: make sure their kids get chicken pox before their first day of school. To that end, they are gathering at Chicken pox parties attended by at least one infected child who can spread the virus to the others.

Parents are scouting out like-minded parents with young children and getting together when one of them gets Chicken pox. One mother, after being told by her pediatrician that the only reason the Chicken pox vaccine exists is to prevent parents from missing work, even posted an ad on Craigslist and a mommy message board looking for Chicken pox infected playmates for her two-year-old.

So, why do we vaccinate our children against an illness that many of us sailed through as children ourselves? According to Dr. Anne Gershon, professor of pediatrics at Columbia University and president of the Infectious Disease Society of America, one good reason is that the vaccine lessens the chance that the Chicken pox virus will later return as shingles. Plus, she says, deliberately exposing your child to the virus is not a risk-free alternative to the vaccine. "Chicken pox parties are a terrible mistake," she says. "Imagine how you would feel if you took your kid to one and they came down with encephalitis or group A strep. Most of the time chicken pox is a mild disease, but you can die from the complications."

Clearly we are a long way from any consensus on this whole vaccination issue. But until doctors can agree on whether or not the Chicken pox virus is preferable to the vaccine, it seems that parents have no choice but to make that decision for themselves.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.