Our View: Dangerous to expose children to viruses

As society — and thus science — evolves, so must our practices.

Such is the case with the alleged “chickenpox parties” Gov. Matt Bevin encouraged in his most recent comments that put Kentucky in national headlines.

It was reported across the U.S. Wednesday and Thursday that Bevin told WKCT, a Bowling Green radio station, he intentionally exposed his children to chicken pox, and used the platform to suggest he believes government should stay out of mandating vaccines.

We couldn’t disagree more with Bevin’s move to intentionally make his children sick or his insinuation that people shouldn’t be required to have vaccines.

“Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox,” Bevin said. “They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it. They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”

While chickenpox is relatively harmless in most cases, why would a parent want to intentionally subject their children to pain, suffering, feeling “miserable” and potentially more severe reactions to the virus if not necessary? This practice seems cruel and unusual in a time when a vaccine is available to prevent such suffering.

Although most children recover just fine from chickenpox, the virus can become more dangerous and even fatal if there are complications.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, chicken pox is a highly contagious infection that results in an itchy rash with fluid-filled blisters.

Besides the rash, which can be painful and, if scratched, leave scars on the body, other symptoms include fever, loss of appetite, headache, fatigue and a generally feeling unwell.

“In severe cases, the rash can cover the entire body, and lesions may form in the throat, eyes and mucous membranes of the urethra, anus and vagina,” the Mayo Clinic reports.

Other more serious complications include bacterial infections of the skin, soft tissues, bones, joints or bloodstream known as sepsis, dehydration, pneumonia, inflammation of the brain known as encephalitis, toxic shock syndrome and even death.

So, while most children are “just fine,” others may not be.

By refusing to vaccinate children against the virus, parents could be deliberately endangering them and others who cannot receive vaccinations for some medical reason or who are immune compromised.

“Chickenpox used to be very common in the United States,” according to the CDC. “In the early 1990s, an average of 4 million people got chickenpox, 10,500 to 13,000 were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died each year.”

The chickenpox vaccine became available in 1995 and studies have consistently found it safe and effective.

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

The governor should not be using a typically mild virus, like chicken pox, as a platform to argue for reduced mandates on vaccinations.

“If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child,” Bevin said. “But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise. This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t.”

Is a time when Kentucky is in the grips of the worst hepatitis A outbreak in the nation, and already 44 people have died from the disease, which is also preventable by a vaccine, the best time to be arguing against mandated vaccinations?

While chickenpox is relatively mild, other diseases that are preventable by a vaccine — like measles and mumps — are not. And some of these diseases are making a comeback after being nearly eradicated in our country. That comeback is thanks to a recent push from people to not vaccinate, for many reasons that aren’t reasonable.

Despite Bevin’s pleas or recommendations, the government should continue mandating vaccinations, aim to cut down on untrue information being spread about the dangers of vaccines and keep educating the public about the safety and efficacy of this lifesaving medical science. Our country will be better and our children, immune-compromised neighbors and others will be safer for it.