Chickenpox parties ‘outdated,’ local doctor says

Chickenpox parties ‘outdated,’ local doctor says
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin made national headlines this week when he told a Bowling Green radio station he intentionally exposed his kids to chickenpox. (Source: Jonny McCullagh/Wikimedia)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin made national headlines this week when he told a Bowling Green radio station he intentionally exposed his kids to chickenpox.

This got the WAVE 3 Newsroom talking, too, since some employees can remember chickenpox parties being a common thing to do years ago.

Turns out chickenpox parties are an outdated way of thinking, experts said.

Dr. Forest Arnold specializes in infectious diseases at UofL. He said chickenpox parties are a thing of the past, and that the vaccine will prevent other, more serious illnesses later in life.

While chickenpox itself isn’t typically dangerous, it can turn deadly in some cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 100 deaths are prevented every year by the varicella vaccination.

“We need to educate our patients that the chickenpox vaccine prevents chickenpox and shingles and other diseases later in life, like meningitis, wherever it can manifest,” Arnold said.

Most school-aged children are now protected with the vaccine, which is more than 90 percent effective.

So why is a Catholic school in Walton, Kentucky, facing an outbreak? According to the Northern Kentucky Health Department, at least 13 percent of Assumption Academy students have contracted the illness.

Families like the Kunkels chose against vaccination because they said it goes against their religious beliefs.

“As Catholics, we believe that abortion is wrong, and since the vaccine derives from aborted fetal cells, that goes against that,” student Jerome Kunkel said.

The Catholic church, however, isn’t on the same page.

Stem cells of two aborted fetuses contributed to the vaccine’s development, but that was 50 years ago and there haven’t been any more abortions to continue the cell lines for the current vaccine.

The Archdiocese of Louisville directed us to a reading that cites the Vatican’s Academy for Life, calling the chickenpox vaccine a “moral obligation.”

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