More and more communities are reporting on a concerning trend called "pox parties," where anti-vaccination enthusiasts are purposefully exposing their children in the hopes of building immunity.
So-called "Chicken Pox parties" or "pox parties" are a means of exposing children to the varicella disease. According to a report by Healthline, anti-vaccine parents — known as anti-vaxxers online — hope that their kids will develop a natural immunity without having to take the vaccine.
A person can only be infected with varicella once, after which they have immunity for life. Some parents believe that the vaccine is harmful, and they would rather their child suffer through it once than get the shot. However, the chicken pox is much more uncomfortable for teens and adults, so these parents reason that it is a mercy to expose them young rather than wait for it to find them later on in life.
The pox parties actually have a historical basis from the time before vaccines were available. They were discussed in a book called Kept From All Contagion: Germ Theory, Disease, and the Dilemma of Human Contact in Late Nineteenth-Century Literature by M. Kari Nixon, PhD.
"It was a type of social vaccination," said pediatrician Dr. S. Daniel Ganjian.
These days, it is estimated that the chicken pox vaccine prevents more than 100 deaths per year, and has prevented as many as 3.5 million cases of the disease altogether. Still, parents have bought into dubious scientific claims that the vaccine is somehow more harmful, which doctors are doing their best to warn against. Groups like the Measles and Rubella Initiative as well as Voices for Vaccines target anti-vax parents, trying to convince them with real science and statistics to get their children vaccinated.
As this battle rages on, Jay Nixon, governor of Kentucky, reportedly sided with the parents, saying that he did not support government-mandated vaccinations for chicken pox in particular.
"To my knowledge, chickenpox parties fell out of favor in the late 1990s, early 2000s," Nixon told Healthline. "My guess would be that they've made a comeback now with the anti-vaccination movement."
While the chicken pox may be relatively survivable, other diseases re-emerging in the anti-vaxxer age are more dangerous. Earlier this month, the World Health Organization warned that there was a drastic 300% increase in the measles worldwide, posing a serious threat to the young, elderly and sick.
"Preliminary global data on #measles shows that reported cases rose by 300 percent in the first three months of 2019, compared to the same period in 2018," the W.H.O. wrote. "This follows consecutive increases over the past two years."
The organization has been using the hashtag "vaccines work" to combat anti-vaxxer ideology.