Taking the kids to a 'pox party': Welcome to new-age American parenting. It's not pretty

Rajeshwari Ganesan
Rajeshwari GanesanJan 04, 2019 | 12:23

Taking the kids to a 'pox party': Welcome to new-age American parenting. It's not pretty

Some parents in Colorado refuse to believe in vaccines and are bringing their healthy kids in contact with a child who has chickenpox in 'pox parties'.

We are used to getting party invites for our kids. There are parties (themed very grandly) for kids' birthdays, for festivals or even graduating from playschool to kindergarten.

But have you heard of a pox party?

Apparently, this is the latest fad in the United States.

While most parents go out of their way to prevent their children from contracting chickenpox, in the US, parents are arranging 'pox parties' — to deliberately infect their children with the virus.

A group in Boulder, Colorado, that has been a part of the growing anti-vaxxer movement, believes that infecting their children is safer than vaccinating the kids against the pox in an attempt to 'naturally' build up immunity to viruses.

The opposition to vaccines is as old as the vaccines themselves — pox parties were common before the varicella zoster vaccine came out in 1995. However, once the vaccine came out nearly a quarter-century ago, it offered a far less onerous and risky alternative — a dead or weakened form of the virus is injected into the system, and it stimulates the antibodies to recognise the virus without making the children sick. 

Of late, there have been trends of parents in Western countries refusing to vaccinate their children due to numerous reasons and perceived fears. The surge in the opposition to vaccines has been observed most notably since the rise in prominence of the controversial British ex-physician, Andrew Wakefield, and his works.

With the world shrinking, social media is a major propellant in fuelling the “how to get your kids sick” club.

The Colorado-based news channel, 9 News reported that private Facebook group show strategies to get children sick, including the ‘tenting’ method.

It suggests putting a sick kid in a small space for half an hour — ensuring the enclosure is full of exhaled air. Then, add the healthy kid with some toys to keep them occupied and “let the party begin!” The kids sharing snacks from the same bowl is apparently an “added bonus”.

main_chickenpox-1_010319084601.jpgAmerican parents would rather have their children contract chickenpox than believe in vaccinations. (Representative photo: Reuters)

Facebook is also apparently the invitation and information hub of pox parties being organised. From a roaring trade in chickenpox-infected items like lollipops purported to contain the chickenpox virus or even spit (gross!) to pox party invites —Zuckerberg’s portal purportedly has it all.

Reportedly, there are parents who are offering to host parties — like this one:

Not everyone, however, is appreciative of the rationale of these parents. The criticism is primarily from qualified healthcare professionals, who strongly advise against such ‘parties’.

“It is an unnecessary risk that parents should not be taking. They are needlessly putting their children's lives in danger,” opines Dr. Lindsay Diamond, Founder and Co-Director of Community Immunity and Director of Communication at the University of Colorado.

Of course, one does not need Einstein, or Dr Diamond, to explain what common sense dictates.

But then, we are talking of a nation that ranks number 6 among the 10 most educated countries in the world — home to eight of the top 10 best universities in the world. We are talking of the nation that has been the undisputed economic superpower of the world since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989. We are talking of the nation whose leadership does not believe that climate change is a real phenomena (neither does our leadership, for that matter!).

We are talking of the nation that voted for Donald Trump as its President.

To be fair, a majority of people still vaccinate their kids. However, these clusters of intentionally unvaccinated children — that have been on the rise lately — are leading to a rise in outbreaks of preventable diseases that are getting harder to control.

I pity the children here — forget having any agency, are they even aware of the detrimental decisions their parents taking for them?

“While vaccine-hesitant parents are a very small subset of the overall population, they tend to be more vocal,” Neal Goldstein, an assistant research professor at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, reportedly said. “With Facebook and other social media sites, it is easy to spread your beliefs to a broad audience.”

But then, humanity has always had absurd beliefs. About 60 percent of Americans believe that Jesus Christ and his angels will descend from heaven and destroy the planet, and about 40 percent of Americans think it will happen within the next few decades.

Of course, that doesn’t make them right.

So America, it is not enough to be literate. You need to get educated, get vaccinated, live long and prosper. Godspeed!

Last updated: January 04, 2019 | 12:23
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