Vaccines remain an intensely charged subject for parents across the country. Some parents don't want to vaccinate their children for a variety of personal reasons, while others are concerned by the idea that too many children forgoing vaccinations could cause outbreaks of treatable viruses, like measles and chickenpox. The subject of vaccines has become part of the political conversation as well, and at least one politician has made it clear where he stands. As the Louisville Courier Journal reported, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says his kids "got the chickenpox on purpose" instead of getting them vaccinated.
Bevin and his wife Glenna have nine children together between the ages of 5 and 16, as he shared on his official campaign website. And as the governor said during a recent interview with the Bowling Green radio talkshow WKCT, all of his children were intentionally infected with the chickenpox virus when they were younger.
"Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox," Bevin said in the interview, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. "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."
Romper's request for comment from Gov. Bevin's office was not immediately returned.
Despite the fact that the state of Kentucky requires children to be vaccinated against the chickenpox virus when they start kindergarten, as CNN previously reported, Bevin made it clear in that same interview that he felt parents should have the right to choose whether their children receive vaccinations.
"If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child," Bevin told WKCT, according to the Dayton Daily News "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."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against what some people have called "chicken pox parties" — when parents intentionally expose their kids to the virus — noting on the agency's website:
Chickenpox can be serious and can lead to severe complications and death, even in healthy children. There is no way to tell in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be. So it is not worth taking the chance of exposing your child to someone with the disease.
What's more, Kentucky recently saw an outbreak of chickenpox at Our Lady of Assumption Catholic school where 30 children have suffered from the virus since February, according to The New York Times.
Chickenpox might seem like a simple case of having a rash and a bit of a fever, but according to the CDC, it can also come with serious complications like pneumonia, strep throat, bacterial infection of the skin, inflammation of the brain (encephalitis), blood infections, dehydration, and bleeding issues.
There was a time in the past when chickenpox parties were popular, but now parents are armed with more information and scientific research about possible side effects and dangers. And that's why the CDC advises parents to avoid such "parties" and strongly encourages parents to get their children vaccinated.