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Every kid loves a lollipop, but when we heard about parents who are intentionally giving their children lollies they received in the mail (from strangers!) that purportedly had been in the mouths of kids battling chickenpox, we had to wonder whether these parents are the true suckers –- or far worse.
Pox parties have been popular among the anti-vaccination crowd for a while -- the festivities revolve around inviting healthy children into the home of a child battling chickenpox, in hopes the other kids will catch the virus and thus build up an immunity without a vaccine -- but a mom in Tennessee apparently took this idea one step further. According to Nashville’s WSMV-TV, she reportedly charged $50 to send lollipops smothered in chickenpox saliva through the mail to people who can’t or don’t want to attend an in-person pox party. In many cases, the parents are connecting via Facebook groups dedicated to pox parties. Not surprisingly, authorities are decrying this as an epically bad idea -- not to mention illegal.
"Can you imagine getting a package in the mail from this complete stranger that you know from Facebook because you joined a group, and say here, drink this purported spit from some other kid?" U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee Jerry Martin told The Associated Press, per ABC News. In short: no…and ewwww!!!
For guidance about this mini-trend, we turned to Dr. Walter Orenstein, associate director of the Emory Vaccine Center and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Infectious Diseases, who let us know what he thinks about these pox pops -- and a little insight into vaccination:
iVillage: What do you think about these so-called chickenpox lollipops?
Dr. Orenstein: I think this is a potentially very dangerous practice. If a child is licking a lollipop, they might have things like strep and who only knows what else that could be transferred. It could be more than just chickenpox. The second issue is I don’t even know if the virus could survive on a lollipop.
iVillage: What do you say to these parents who think these lollipops or things like pox parties could help their child build their immunity?
Dr. Orenstein: Getting chickenpox leads to immunity but the chickenpox vaccine also leads to immunity and is much safer. Most cases of chickenpox do not have complications, but some do. In some cases infected kids can scratch the pox and bacteria can get inside, leading to infection. Other complications include pneumonia and brain inflammation. We used to see 100 to 150 chickenpox-related deaths in the US a year, but since the vaccine that number is way down. This vaccine can prevent suffering.
iVillage: Are there any risks associated with the chickenpox vaccine?
Dr. Orenstein: No vaccine is 100-percent safe, but in general the risks are far less than the risks associated with getting the chickenpox virus. Potential risks include skin rashes, some swelling at the injection site or a low-grade fever.
iVillage: What advice do you have for parents who are skittish about vaccines in general?
Dr. Orenstein: In general it is more risky not to vaccine your child. These are not inconsequential diseases we are vaccinating against and there is no need for a child to suffer. If parents would like more information about vaccines and potential side effects, I encourage them to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and contact their doctor with any questions. The benefits of getting vaccinated, as most children are, far outweigh the risks.