Believe It or Not, Chicken Pox Parties Are Still a Thing

Do you remember having chicken pox?

Oh boy, I sure do!

I was about six or seven years old and it was bad. Still, I’m not sure if I remember because I had such a bad case or because it made me miss Halloween that year.

It was almost certainly both, as I remember being covered in spots from head to toe.

What I don’t recall is having many visitors. Why didn’t my mom throw me a chicken pox party!

I also don’t remember going to a chicken pox party to get sick.

Believe It or Not, Chicken Pox Parties Are Still a Thing

Whether or not chicken pox parties were ever that popular, the approval of the chicken pox vaccine in 1995 should have put an end to the practice.

After all, why intentionally expose your child to a potentially life-threatening disease, when a safe and effective vaccine is readily available?

“Chickenpox (varicella) is generally a much milder illness in children than in adults, with considerably lower rates of severe disease and death. Varicella is also virtually universal in many populations, meaning that very few individuals escape infection over a lifetime. Thus, a sound logic underlies the idea of chickenpox parties, at which susceptible children can acquire the contagious causative pathogen, varicella zoster virus (VZV), from their peers. However, chickenpox is not without risks, even for children of this age; severe, complicated, and occasionally fatal varicella occur in previously healthy children, as well as the immunocompromised (who are at very considerable risk).”

Hambleton et al on Chickenpox Party or Varicella Vaccine?

Most folks understand that. They get their kids vaccinated and have helped get chicken pox under very good control, with outbreaks of chicken pox declining over 95%.

“Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of varicella, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths are prevented by varicella vaccination in the United States”

CDC on Monitoring the Impact of Varicella Vaccination

Apparently, not everyone has gotten the message though.

Remember when CPS had to investigate the mom who was having chicken pox parties in Plano, Texas a few years ago?

“On the page, parents post where they live and ask if anyone with a child who has the chicken pox would be willing to send saliva, infected lollipops or clothing through the mail.”

CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases

Or when anti-vaccine folks were selling and mailing lollipops contaminated with chicken pox to folks so that they could skip the trouble of finding a chicken pox party?

And then there’s that time that a family served chicken pox contaminated punch at their chicken pox party. Oh wait, that was The Simpsons

Chicken pox party - The Simpsons did it.
Chicken pox party – The Simpsons did it in the Milhouse of Sand and Fog episode in Season 17.

So what are they up to now?

Folks are still advertising chicken pox parties in anti-vaccine Facebook groups.
Folks are still advertising chicken pox parties in anti-vaccine Facebook groups.

More of the same…

Does she know that the chicken pox vaccine likely decreases your risk of getting shingles later in life?
Does she know that the chicken pox vaccine likely decreases your risk of getting shingles later in life?

Apparently, there are still plenty of folks looking for chicken pox parties to infect their kids.

Why?

It is easy to see a lot of cognitive biases at play in the decision to host or bring a child to a chicken pox party, including ambiguity aversion (prefer what they think are the known risks of getting the disease), bandwagoning (they think everyone else is doing it, because in their echo chambers of anti-vaccine propaganda, everyone might), and optimism bias, etc.

There is also a very poor perception of risks, as the risks from a natural chicken pox infection are far, far greater than any risk from the vaccine.

Don't forget to tent!!!
Don’t forget to tent and share breath!!!

In bigger news, Facebook has groups who’s mission is “finding pox,” so that parents can get their kids sick!

The mission of PX Colorado is finding pox!
The mission of PX Colorado is finding pox!

How many other PoX type groups are there on Facebook?

How many other parents are intentionally not vaccinating their kids and intentionally exposing them to chicken pox?

Do any of them quarantine or isolate their kids for 10 to 21 days after the chicken pox party, so as to not expose anyone who is too young to be vaccinated, too young to be fully vaccinated, or has a true medical exemption to getting vaccinated, including those who are immunocompromised?

Do they understand the consequences of having these pox parties?

The latest chicken pox party hostess is apparently a nurse - at least for now...
The latest chicken pox party hostess is apparently a nurse – at least for now…

Of course, an investigation from CPS, the health department, or a medical board isn’t the most serious consequence that should discourage folks from hosting or attending a chicken pox party.

Chicken pox can be a serious, even life-threatening infection. Sure, many kids just get a mild case, but others get more serious cases and have bad complications, including skin infections, encephalitis, sepsis, or stroke.

And some people do still die from chicken pox, which is supposed to be a mild, childhood illness.

“This report describes a varicella death in an unvaccinated, previously healthy adolescent aged 15 years.”

Varicella Death of an Unvaccinated, Previously Healthy Adolescent — Ohio, 2009

Fortunately, these deaths have been nearly eliminated thanks to the chicken pox vaccine.

And that’s why parents who are on a mission for “finding pox” should rethink things and switch to a mission to get their kids vaccinated and protected.

More on Chicken Pox Parties

Vaccine Analogies and Metaphors

Analogies and metaphors are a good way to explain things, including that vaccines are safe and necessary.

We are sunk if we stop vaccinating.
As the CDC explains, we are sunk if we stop vaccinating.

Here are some of my favorite vaccine analogies and metaphors.

Getting vaccinated is like:

  • applying sunscreen before going to the beach
  • applying insect repellent before going camping in the woods
  • making sure that your kids are wearing a seat belt or sitting in an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat when you get in the car
  • installing anti-virus software on your new computer

When do you put on your seat belt? When you get in the car, before you get in an accident. Just like a vaccine. You get it before you get sick. Yes, some vaccines do work after you have been exposed to an illness, but they don’t work after you are already sick.

There is a problem with these metaphors though; they don’t include the risks to other people.

These do:

  • taking driver’s ed and getting your license before driving
  • taking swimming lessons before going in the water without a life jacket
  • putting your gun in a locked safe
  • putting a fence around your backyard so that no one in your neighborhood can drown in your pool
  • making sure folks don’t text and drive

That’s right.

Vaccination equals protection.

And not just protection for the person getting vaccinated. Being unvaccinated puts others at risk too, as you might start an outbreak.

Getting your kids vaccinated is like taking them to swimming lessons instead of just throwing them in the lake. Either way they can learn to swim and have protection/immunity from drowning. But one method (throwing them in the lake) is much more dangerous than the other.

Analogies can also help explain how vaccines work.

“Vaccines are a like a wanted poster, they just show your body what the bad guys look like, so when faced with them for real you are ready, prepared, and able to stop them before they cause harm.”

Can vaccines overwhelm the immune system?

Are there analogies that explain the idea of free-riders – folks who intentionally don’t vaccinate their kids and attempt to hide in the herd?

“If all my child’s friends are vaccinated, won’t he be protected by herd immunity? Why should I put my child at risk for vaccine reactions if all the other children around him are already immune?

This is like riding in a carpool where everyone contributes each month to pay for gas, repairs and parking. One morning, a new neighbor shows up and says, “I think I’ll ride along with you. But I’m not going to pay, since you’re going downtown anyway and you have an empty seat.” If enough people choose to take a free ride on other children’s immunity, herd immunity will soon disappear.”

Why is herd immunity so important?

And to explain the idea of what some folks consider vaccine injuries.

“I have found that it sometimes helps to give parents an analogy. I ask them the following: If they were to put gas in their car and then later got a flat tire, would that mean putting gas in the car had caused the flat tire? No. The two events were just a coincidence.”

Karen Lewis on What Vaccine Safety Means

What are some good analogies to describe how some anti-vax folks think?

Since that bridge isn’t 100% safe (I Googled that some bridges have collapsed), I’m going to let my kids swim across this river with fast moving water.

Have you heard the bridge analogy?

There are also versions with crocodiles in the water…

In case it’s not clear, in this analogy, walking across the bridge is like getting vaccinated. Swimming across the river is like intentionally not vaccinating your kids.

There are plenty of other good analogies that help to explain the importance of vaccines.

“Clusters of unvaccinated people are like patches of dry grass that, with a single match, can start a wildfire that will burn not only dry material, but sometimes wet as well. The match could be a student who returns from a trip abroad with measles or a train commuter with whooping cough.”

Saad Omer

It’s also important to remember that anyone, even those who are well prepared, can get burned in a wildfire. That’s why the analogy works so well.

“Vaccinating one’s children is like paying taxes. We all have a moral and a legal duty to pay taxes because we have a moral and a legal duty to contribute to the upkeep of our society and to its public goods (e.g., a good public health system, national defence, etc.).”

Vaccine Refusal Is Like Tax Evasion

Why are we concerned about those who are unvaccinated if our own children are fully vaccinated?

“Think of camping as an analogy. If everyone at a campground properly stores their food, bears won’t be enticed to come around. If even one person leaves their food unprotected, it invites bears in to investigate all the campsites for opportunities to eat.”

How does choosing not to immunize affect the community?

These analogies help explain how unvaccinated folks put others at risk.

“Being intentionally unvaccinated against highly contagious diseases is, to carry Holmes’ analogy a bit further, like walking down a street randomly swinging your fists without warning. You may not hit an innocent bystander, but you’ve substantially increased the chances that you will.

One might usefully analogize the risk of disease to a crapshoot. A person’s chance of being infected is, as Dr. Singer acknowledges, a matter of luck. But is it really OK for the unvaccinated to load the dice to increase the odds against other people? If so, by how much?”

Ronald Bailey on Vaccines and the Responsibility To Not Put Others at Risk

Of course, there are plenty of bad vaccine analogies and metaphors that anti-vaccine folks push:

  • getting vaccinated is like rape
  • getting vaccinated is like the Holocaust
  • “genes load the gun but the vaccines pull the trigger”
  • vaccine manufacturers are like tobacco manufacturers
  • I won’t set my child on fire to keep yours warm (this doesn’t work as a vaccine analogy, mostly because there is no benefit to setting your child on fire. Would an anti-vaxxer let their child start a campfire to keep their friends from dying in the cold?)
  • getting a vaccine is like eating a handful of M&Ms out of a big bowl when you know that a few have been poisoned
  • getting a child  vaccinated is like giving 1,000 kids 1,000 cupcakes, telling them to pick one and eat it, knowing that one of the cupcakes is poisoned (it’s maybe like letting a child with a severe peanut allergy choose a cupcake, knowing that there is a one in a million chance that the cupcake he chooses has been made with peanuts…)
  • I want safer cars, but that doesn’t make me anti-car

You understand why the anti-car one is a bad analogy, right? Folks who want safer cars generally still drive and ride in cars!

Have you heard any good or bad analogies or mataphors about vaccines?

More on Vaccine Analogies and Metaphors

Who Dies from the Flu?

While some folks still believe that the flu is a mild infection, most people understand that the flu is a very dangerous disease.

A dangerous disease that kills hundreds of children and tens of thousands of adults each year in the United States.

Who Dies from the Flu?

In addition to thinking that the flu isn’t dangerous, some folks misunderstand just who is at risk for dying from the flu.

While it is certainly true that some people at higher risk than others, including those who are very young, very old, and those with chronic medical problems, it is very important to understand that just about anyone can die when they get the flu.

Just consider the 2017-18 flu season, in which 181 children died.

As in most years, half of the kids who died of flu during the 2017-18 flu season had no underlying medical condition. Of those who did, the most common were neurologic and pulmonary conditions.
As in most years, half of the kids who died of flu during the 2017-18 flu season had no underlying medical condition. Of those who did, the most common were neurologic and pulmonary conditions.

In addition to the fact that half of the kids who died were otherwise healthy, without an underlying high risk medical condition, it is important to realize that up to 80% were unvaccinated.

That’s a good clue that flu vaccines work and that everyone should get vaccinated and protected each year.

“Influenza vaccination during the 2015-2016 influenza season prevented an estimated 5.1 million illnesses, 2.5 million medical visits, 71,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 P&I deaths.”

Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths Averted by Vaccination in the United States

Flu vaccines aren’t perfect, but even when they are less effective than we would like, they have many benefits, including reducing your risk of dying from the flu.

Who dies from the flu?

Consider that one of the first flu deaths of the season was a 29-year-old Raleigh lawyer.

And the first pediatric flu death was an unvaccinated child in Florida without any underlying medical conditions.

Anyone can die from the flu.

Get your flu vaccine now.

More on Flu Deaths

How Long Does It Take for the Flu Vaccine to Start Working?

Flu shots work.

They aren’t perfect, but they can help prevent you from getting sick with the flu and have other benefits.

How Long Does It Take for the Flu Vaccine to Start Working?

They don’t work immediately though.

“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.”

Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine

That’s why you don’t want to wait until the last minute to get your flu vaccine.

I made sure to get my flu shot well before the start of flu season.
I made sure to get my flu shot well before the start of flu season.

You want some time for it to start working, so that you can be sure that you are protected.

So while some folks talk about getting a flu vaccine too early, you do want to make sure that you get it in time to get protection before flu is active in your area. Still, it is never too late to get a flu vaccine. It is better to get a flu vaccine late in the flu season than to skip it all together.

What about younger kids getting their flu vaccine for the first time and who need 2 doses? When do they start getting protection?

“The first dose “primes” the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection.”

Study Looks at Flu Vaccine Dosing in Children

Although they likely have some protection after that first dose, the best protection will begin 10 to 14 days after their second dose.

More on Flu Vaccine Protection

Did the FDA Approve a New HPV Vaccine for Adults?

What do you know about the HPV vaccine?

Hopefully you know that it can prevent cervical cancer and that lots of folks spread misinformation that is intended to confuse and scare you away from getting vaccinated and protected with it and other vaccines.

Did the FDA Approve a New HPV Vaccine for Adults?

News that the approved ages for Gardasil have been expanded will likely add to that confusion for a little while.

The FDA simply approved the expanded use of the existing Gardasil 9 vaccine – not a new vaccine.
The FDA simply approved the expanded use of the existing Gardasil 9 vaccine – not a new vaccine.

The first thing to understand is that the FDA did not approve a new Gardasil vaccine for older adults.

They very simply expanded the age recommendations for who should get the existing Gardasil 9 vaccine, which was approved back in 2014, replacing the original Gardasil vaccine, which was approved in 2006.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved a supplemental application for Gardasil 9 (Human Papillomavirus (HPV) 9-valent Vaccine, Recombinant) expanding the approved use of the vaccine to include women and men aged 27 through 45 years.”

Why the new age indication?

“In a study in approximately 3,200 women 27 through 45 years of age, followed for an average of 3.5 years, Gardasil was 88 percent effective in the prevention of a combined endpoint of persistent infection, genital warts, vulvar and vaginal precancerous lesions, cervical precancerous lesions, and cervical cancer related to HPV types covered by the vaccine.”

But isn’t the whole point of giving the HPV vaccine to preteens that you want to get them vaccinated and protected before they are sexually active and exposed to and infected by HPV?

Sure, but if you didn’t, and unless you are sure that you have been exposed to and have been infected by all 9 types of HPV strains that Gardasil 9 protects you against, then the vaccine is still a good idea when you are older.

Except FDA approval doesn’t automatically mean that your insurance company will pay for it.

That usually comes once a vaccine is formally added to the immunization schedule by the ACIP.

“In a 2005 study, 92% of insurance plans reported following Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommendations to determine covered vaccines; of those, 60% could extend coverage within 3 months after issuance of recommendations and 13% in 1 month.”

Lindley et al on Financing the Delivery of Vaccines to Children and Adolescents: Challenges to the Current System

And Obamacare still requires insurance plans to provide ACIP-recommended vaccines at no charge.

Will Gardasil 9 be added to the immunization schedule for adults?

The extended age indication for Gardasil 9 will be discussed at the next ACIP meeting.
The extended age indication for Gardasil 9 will be discussed at the next ACIP meeting.

We should know sooner, rather than later. It is on the agenda for the next ACIP meeting on October 25…

More on Gardasil for Older Adults

What is Mitochondrial Autism?

Ready for latest autism controversy?

Wait, are we done with any of the previous ones?

Vaccines? Biomed treatments?

Nope. But get ready for a new one.

Well an old that has come back yet again…

What is it?

It is autism secondary to mitochondrial disease or AMD.

What are Mitochondrial Diseases?

Since the mitochondria are considered the power houses of our cells, when you have a problem with them, your cells may not have enough energy to do their jobs.

“The parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, muscles and lungs, requiring the greatest amounts of energy are the most affected. Mitochondrial disease is difficult to diagnose, because it affects each individual differently. Symptoms can include seizures, strokes, severe developmental delays, inability to walk, talk, see, and digest food combined with a host of other complications. If three or more organ systems are involved, mitochondrial disease should be suspected.”

What is Mitochondrial Disease?

It is important to understand that there are actually many different kinds of mitochondrial diseases or mito and they cause many different symptoms. Some even cause different symptoms in the same person over time.

There also isn’t one quick and easy test that you can do to diagnose someone with mito.

And for most people, mitochondrial disorders are thought to be genetic.

A genetic condition that causes a range of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe – a spectrum if you will, which usually begin to appear in toddles and preschoolers, at least when they affect children.

Starting to understand that mito disorders might be caught up with an autism controversy?

What is Autism Secondary to Mitochondrial Disease?

Especially since the Poling decision, some folks have gotten the impression that it has been confirmed that vaccines are associated autism, at least for kids with mito.

“As of now, there are no scientific studies that say vaccines cause or worsen mitochondrial diseases. We do know that certain illnesses that can be prevented by vaccines, such as the flu, can trigger the regression that is related to a mitochondrial disease. More research is needed to determine if there are rare cases where underlying mitochondrial disorders are triggered by anything related to vaccines. However, we know that for most children, vaccines are a safe and important way to prevent them from getting life-threatening diseases.”

Mitochondrial Disease – Frequently Asked Questions

It hasn’t.

Dr. Zimmerman clarified that infections can lead to regressive autism too - not just vaccines.
Dr. Zimmerman who believes that vaccines can cause autism in some specific cases clarified that infections can lead to regressive autism too.

Even those who are actively studying mitochondrial disease and regressive autism admit that any inflammation can lead to regression and that it is better to get vaccinated and protected, so that these kids don’t worsen after they get a vaccine-preventable disease.

“As noted above, an important consideration for treatment of AMD is that “normal” inflammation can impair mitochondrial function. Although most infections cannot be avoided, certain measures can limit the risk of injury during infection or other causes of inflammation… We believe it is much better to immunize with DTaP than risk infection with highly inflammatory and potentially damaging community-acquired pertussis.”

Dr. Richard Kelley on Evaluation and Treatment of Patients with Autism and Mitochondrial Disease

In fact, in one of the few studies on vaccines and autism secondary to mitochondrial disease, Fever Plus Mitochondrial Disease Could Be Risk Factors for Autistic Regression, the authors found that the great majority of children either   regressed after fever WITHOUT vaccination or regressed without fever.

Very few regressed with fever and vaccination.

“In our patients with mitochondrial disease and autistic spectrum disorders, the vaccines did not appear related to the neurologic regression.”

John Shoffner et al on Fever Plus Mitochondrial Disease Could Be Risk Factors for Autistic Regression

And despite some folks saying that all kids should be tested for mito and treated with supplements, it is very important to keep in mind that most autistic kids and adults do not have a mitochondrial disorder.

“Most patients who have autism have a genetic non-mitochondrial etiology for their symptoms.”

Understanding Mitochondrial Disorders

What about the UC Davis study that so many folks use to say that 80% of children with autism enrolled in their study had blood tests that showed mitochondrial disease? There were only 10 kids in the study…

So why do we continue to see so many people pushing the idea of autism secondary to mitochondrial disease is so common and that it could be triggered by vaccines?

For one thing, it gives them a chance to scare folks away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Plus, they get to sell more supplements, mito cocktails, and lab tests…

Mito was in the news
Mito was in the news “again” ten years ago. The above post was on August 13, 2008. Why is it back now?

And many people have forgotten that this was all old news ten years ago…

More on Autism Secondary to Mitochondrial Disease

 

Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?

It shouldn’t be a surprise that vaccines aren’t mentioned in the Bible.

It’s the same reason antibiotics, airplanes, and pasteurization aren’t mentioned – they weren’t invented yet.

Remember, Edward Jenner first vaccinated James Phipps with his smallpox vaccine in 1796.

Why Aren’t Vaccines Mentioned in the Bible?

But even before the smallpox vaccine was developed by Edward Jenner in 1796, we had variolation. While we have evidence of smallpox infections as early as the 2nd millennium BC, the earliest use of variolation is from the 10th to 18th Century, well after the Bible was written.

Why would vaccines be mentioned in the Bible?
Why would vaccines be mentioned in the Bible?

Still, it shouldn’t be a surprise that some anti-vaccine folks use the Bible and religion against vaccines.

“I just decided to just google what the bible says about vaccines. There’s nothing in the bible that talks about vaccines. I just want you to think about that. So if God knew in the future that he was going to create these amazing things that were going to be the best scientific advancements, like oh, my God, they’re so great, why isn’t there anything, any inkling of talk about these things called vaccinations coming into being later to save people? If that was really God’s plan and they’re so amazing, then why isn’t it in there at all? Maybe there’s a chapter where they talk about something like an injection, like this health injection, right? Like, why didn’t God talk about that if he knew that it was going to come and save the world?”

Brittney Kara

It also shouldn’t be a surprise that they do it to try and sell you stuff, like Brittney Kara’s “Awakening Reset Program.”

Or Isagenix products.

Wait, is Isagenix mentioned in the Bible?

“You can be confident that Isagenix is committed to your success by offering you the opportunity to live a healthy, clean, and lean lifestyle—and to create wealth while doing so.”

Are multi-level marketing companies?

Brittney Kara is not the first anti-vaccine person to say that God does not support vaccines and she likely won’t be the last.

“The society of the 21st century, just as many societies and cultures in the history of human civilization, use religion as an excuse for wars, discrimination, and now for vaccination refusal.”

Pelčić on Religious exception for vaccination or religious excuses for avoiding vaccination

She may be the first to say that “believing in vaccines is a mental disorder.”

Not sure where she gets that…

Still, despite the availability of religious exemptions to vaccines in most states, it is important to understand that no mainstream religions oppose vaccines.

“For its part, Catholic social teaching entails a duty to vaccinate in order to protect the vulnerable.”

Paul J. Carson on Catholic Social Teaching and the Duty to Vaccinate

In fact, most teach about a duty and moral obligation to vaccinate.

“Giving children a healthy start in life, no matter where they are born or the circumstances of their birth, is the moral obligation of every one of us. It is heartbreaking to think that three million children die each year from diseases that we can prevent.”

Nelson Mandela (2002 Vaccine Conference)

And if there is a moral obligation to get vaccinated, then what does that say about those who push propaganda that scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids?

More on Vaccines and the Bible