26 June 2014

Pox Parties: Not as fun as they sound.

I'm sure your kid appreciates waiting until after his third birthday to expose him to chickenpox. "You're welcome, kid."

I'm a part of a pro-vaccine group on Facebook (probably to no one's surprise), and there have been a number of posts regarding so-called "pox parties" in different metro areas. These Facebook groups tend to have up to 200 members each and are, I would assume, comprised of parents who have decided not to vaccinate their kids against chickenpox (and likely other diseases) in favor of providing "natural" immunity via exposure. Can't attend a pox party? Simply ask to be sent a lollipop with the infected child's saliva on it!

First, gross. Just... really fucking nasty.

Second, if it smacks of a form of biological warfare, that's because it kind of is. After all, it's a federal offense to mail an infectious biological substance through the mail if it doesn't meet certain qualifications (and I can guarantee that sending a spitty, pox-laden lollipop does not qualify). But it doesn't seem like any of these parents truly give a shit.

Third, and probably most importantly, this is dangerous. Forget legality, or disgustingness, or any other appropriate angry knee-jerk reaction to these idiots. We're talking about people who are deliberately infecting a population with an incredibly contagious disease that has real-life complications, including but not limited to encephalitis, pneumonia, and skin infections (including necrotizing fasciitis, which is when your skin is eaten away by bacteria). Not to mention the higher likelihood of getting shingles as an adult.

It's not only limited to chickenpox, either. There are groups and individuals asking for more dangerous pathogens such as measles, mumps, rubella, and other vaccine-preventable illnesses. Don't believe me?

See for yourself.

And...

Oh, and that big ol "Report Group" button? Doesn't do anything. FB NO CURR about spreading infectious diseases, just taking breastfeeding boobs off their site. PRIORITIES.

I've already had my rant about how parents not vaccinating their kids is leading to a rise in measles and other such non-vaxxing bullshit, so I want to focus on chickenpox for a moment.

While it's considered a rather "harmless" childhood disease, the fact is that it can still lead to some pretty nasty complications. In fact, before vaccines against varicella were available, about one in 400 kids who caught the chickenpox landed in the hospital. Fortunately, the vaccine prevents these complications; within six years of its release, we actually saw a 75% drop in hospitalizations as a result of complications from chickenpox.

And if your kid receives the first dose between 12 and 15 months? Their likelihood of catching the infection drops, with an immunity rate between 80 and 94% compared to non-vaccinated kids. After the second dose between ages four and six, they're 98% protected.

There's evidence to suggest that getting the vaccine can stave off shingles, too. Chickenpox is a herpes virus that can remain dormant inside your cells after an initial infection until something causes it to flare up again, and the risk of it developing into shingles increases as you age. My father-in-law had shingles (on his face!), and that shit is no joke. There's a reason why people are sometimes put on suicide watch when afflicted with severe cases: The disease causes terrible, long-lasting pain.

In a 14-year-long study, vaccinating against varicella has shown to drop your chances of getting shingles by 39% compared to being unvaccinated. While it's uncertain whether these effects last into old age when you're most likely to have such a flare-up, though, is undetermined, as most of the varicella vaccine recipients have not yet reached middle age. Still, the chances are relatively good.

But of course, natural immunity must be better, right? I mean, compare the risks you have with the vaccine -- you have a one in 2,000 chance of suffering a (likely minor) side effect! That's nuts, why would I subject my kid to that! I would much rather him have a one in 400 chance of landing in a hospital at a pox party, and... uh... well, at least my kid will have a lot of friends to stick with him at the hospital.

In short, not vaccinating your kid is incredibly short-sighted, but these pox (and other communicable disease) parties are FUCKING STUPID. By doing this, you are intentionally introducing into a pocket of society a disease that, if herd immunity is able to do its thing and we have a rate of immunity via vaccinations of at least 85%, could be eradicated. It's incredibly selfish and maligned.

It will be YOU who brings back an epidemic, YOU who puts your child and the community at risk, and YOU who perpetuates a disease that can -- and will! -- kill people. All for the sake of your... gods, I don't even know. The hell are you thinking.

#micdrop




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