I don’t understand the motivation for people to purposefully try to infect their children with chicken pox when there is a perfectly adequate vaccine available. Babble is featuring an article about pox parties, where parents let their children lick the used lollipops of pox infected neighbors for the sole purpose of contracting the disease. GROSS!
Are shots really that scary that parents feel that the better alternative is a week of painful nasty blisters – and as Dr. Ari Brown will tell you, the risk of death or pneumonia?
The prevailing argument seems to be that direct contact with chicken pox will give you a lifelong immunity. The varicella vaccine, it is argued, may not grant lifelong immunity; it hasn’t been around long enough to determine whether the immunity will persist. While I completely understand this argument, I can’t say that it makes much sense. If it is later determined that the varicella vaccine needs a booster, then my kids will get the booster. That seems like a no brainer. Long term studies in Japan have shown that the vaccine lasts at least 25 years, if not more. Besides, we know that those individuals who were exposed to the varicella vaccine as children have far milder symptoms if they happen to contract it later.
There’s also the “pro and con” argument, that the pros of natural infection outweigh the cons of vaccinating, which is silly. This misconception probably stems from the drumbeat of fear coming from the antivaccine community. I guess the argument is that one less shot lessens the degree of fear of autism and toxins – ignoring that shots don’t cause autism and shots don’t contain “toxins”. Chicken pox can seem like a vanity illness that isn’t worth the perceived risk of autism. After all, it’s only a week off school with hideous liquified boils, and most adults have already survived the temporary misery of chicken pox when they were younger.
Of course, people can die from chicken pox. It’s a small risk, but it’s a risk. I would put that in the “con” category, even though an article in the woo woo Mother Magazine laughably tried to discredit and minimize the deaths as malpractice, preexisting conditions, and complications that were “technically” not varicella. The same article also tried to disregard the problem that leukemia patients have with severe complications from chicken pox. Why should it matter to them if leukemia patients are at risk from the disease? “Our children were all healthy. None had asthma or leukemia (that we knew of)“. A truly selfish and ignorant statement if ever I’ve heard one.
Also, pregnant mothers with chicken pox put their unborn children in mortal danger and at risk of deformities. We’ll mark that down as “con”. While we are at it, we can also note the possibility of scarring and shingles (the degree of risk of the latter in vaccinated children is still unknown but thought to be less severe).
They’ve even developed a pox party plastic teddy bear, so that your children can inhale the pus from a friend without licking them. Isn’t that nice?
Is there anybody out there that wants to defend pox parties? Anybody have a good reason for purposefully infecting their kids with an otherwise preventable disease? I would love to hear those arguments.