Parents of private Facebook groups organize "chickenpox events" to make their children sick.
In one move, experts say it's medically wrong – and can be dangerous – Governor Matt Bevin said Tuesday in a radio interview that he had deliberately exposed his nine children to chicken pox so that They catch the disease and become immune.
"All my children had chickenpox," Bevin said in an interview with WKCT, a radio station on Bowling Green radio. "They contracted chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor who was carrying it, and I made sure my children was exposed, and they had it, they had it like children. They were miserable for a few days and they all did well.
Two medical experts described the practice as dangerous and unwise.
"I would never recommend or recommend it," said Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician and expert on childhood vaccines and diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "It's just dangerous."
A Bevin spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bevin and his wife, Glenna, have nine children between the ages of 5 and 16, according to his campaign's website.
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In the interview, Bevin also suggested that the government avoid imposing vaccines. In Kentucky, chicken pox is one of the vaccines prescribed to all children entering kindergarten, although parents may seek religious exemptions or provide medical evidence that a child has already contracted the disease.
"And I think, why do we force kids to get it?", Said Bevin during a radio interview, speaking about the chickenpox vaccine. "If you are concerned that your child is getting chickenpox or whatever, get him vaccinated … But for some people, and for some parents, for whatever reason, they choose otherwise." It's America. The federal government should not be imposing this on the people, they just should not. "
Jacobson said that he recommended vaccines as a safe and effective way to prevent diseases.
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"We do not live in the 17th century anymore," he said. "I really recommend that my parents vaccinate their children, do it quickly and recognize that they are doing what is right for their children."
Bevin's comments follow reports this week of a chickenpox outbreak in a Catholic school in northern Kentucky, where at least one student said he was not vaccinated for religious reasons.
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Chickenpox, an infectious disease characterized by itchy skin vesicles and fever, can be prevented with a vaccine that became available in 1995
Dr. Dennis Clements, a professor of pediatrics and global health at Duke University, who wrote about the practice of voluntary exposure sought by some parents, said he strongly discouraged this practice.
"Many parents expose their children so that they can get it and get it over with," Clements said. "The vaccine is much safer, and if the vaccine is given to a child, it is far less likely to have shingles in adulthood."
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In a 2005 article, Clements wrote that parents had asked him throughout his practice if it was a good idea to expose their children to another child with chicken pox "to get it over with" . Clements, in the article, says that he recommends the vaccine, which was licensed in 1995.
Although some children may overcome the disease and look healthy, this is not always the case and can sometimes be fatal, said Clements in an email.
"It's true that most children exposed to chickenpox get sick, but remember that you talk to the survivors," he said in an e-mail. "The children who have been exposed and who have died have parents who would probably say something else."
Jacobson said that shingles, a linked viral infection that appears later in life and can be extremely painful, is just one of the risks of skipping the vaccine. Other risks include a serious secondary skin infection, he said.
Before vaccination, chickenpox killed up to 100 adults and children a year.
"I think you're taking a big risk that you do not need to take," Jacobson said. "It's not just a risk to your children, you endanger other people in the community because of your decision."
In the case concerning the Assumption Academy in Walton, after a chickenpox outbreak among 32 students, on March 14th, the Northern Kentucky Department of Health ordered students without proof of vaccination or immunity Chicken pox does not go to school to "prevent the spread of this disease," according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
This resulted in a lawsuit by Jerome Kunkel, a senior at the Assumption Academy, who claimed that health officials had violated his freedom of religion and other rights by ordering students without the vaccine do not go to school or extracurricular activities.
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According to the lawsuit filed on March 14 in the county court of Boone, the vaccine is opposed to this vaccine for religious reasons "because of its origin extracted from aborted fetal cells".
Jacobson said that it was true that the vaccine had been developed in the 1960s with cells from an infected fetus that had been aborted.
But modern vaccines given to children do not contain these cells and no aborted fetuses are used to produce the vaccine. Jacobson said that Roman Catholic Church officials had approved the use of the vaccine and had considered it safe, effective, and not violating any of the principles of the church.
The manufacturing of the vaccine does not require aborted fetal cells, Jacobson said. "The cells of the initial aborted fetus are also not found in the vaccine that a person administers to a child."
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