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Pox Parties?

Updated on January 9, 2014

The rise in popularity of Chicken Pox Parties began back in 2011. Children born before the vaccinations remember being taken over to a friend or relatives house to be infected. Why, with a vaccine available, would a parent take their child to be infected with chicken pox?

The premise of the chicken pox party varied from parent to parent. There are Facebook groups that exist purely to help parents infect their child. At the height of pox parties, Craigslist ads from parents of infected children would ship lollipop their children had sucked to parents who wished to infect their child. 1

Many of the parents who seek to infect their children organically are generally wary of vaccines.They believe allowing their children to get sick is a natural way to build immunity to the disease.The question remains is purposely infecting your child better for them than vaccinating them.

Health Care Prospective

First, let's examine the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many health care providers views on the vaccine and the chicken pox.

The CDC and many health care providers advise that every child and those at risk of contracting chicken pox be vaccinated. The vaccine is 98% effective in those who have both doses of the vaccine.

The chicken pox vaccine first became available in 1995. There were an average of 4 million people contracting chicken pox in the early 1990s. Of these cases, 10,500 to 13,000 were hospitalized and 100 to 150 died per year. Of those with the most severe complications or deaths, most occurred in people that were previously healthy. The CDC estimates that the number of cases of chicken pox prevented by the vaccine are 3.5 million. Additionally, there are 9,000 fewer hospitalizations and 100 fewer deaths.

While most case of the chicken pox are very mild, the serious complications of chicken pox often lead to hospitalization.

Vaccination Against Chicken Pox

The U.S. guidelines for the administration of the Varicella (Chicken Pox) vaccine are as follows:

Children who have not had chicken pox receive 2 doses of the vaccine.

  • 1st dose at 12-15 months
  • 2nd dose at 4-6 years of age

Individuals over the age of 13 years who have not been vaccinated against or had chicken pox should be vaccinated 28 days apart.

According to, the varicella vaccine is very effective. Approximately 8 to 9 out of 10 persons vaccinated are completely protected from chicken pox.

Side Effects of the Varicella Vaccine

Most of the side effects from the vaccine are listed as mild and are as follows:

  • Soreness, redness or swelling at injection site
  • Fever
  • Mild rash or several bumps
  • Seizures may be caused by fever and may or may not be related to the vaccine

Serious side effects include:

  • Severe brain reactions
  • Low blood count

Do not use aspirin for 6 weeks after getting the vaccine. Never give asprin to anyone under the age of 20 years old.

Who Should Not Be Vaccinated

  • Anyone who has had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely sick at the time the vaccine is to be administered.
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone who has any form of cancer
  • Is being treated by drugs that effect the immune system
  • Has HIV/AIDS or any immune disorder

Individuals Against Varicella Vaccine

Caregivers wishing not to vaccinate have options available to them. The first is to not immunize and another is to take their child to chicken pox parties or allow them to play with a child who they are aware has chicken pox. Since chicken pox is generally mild, these caregivers do not feel that immunizing their children is necessary.

In fact, children are not immunized in the U.K. against chicken pox as a matter of national health policy. And there are prominent figures in health care that advise parents not to vaccinate their children. The fear of the chicken pox vaccine is that the vaccine does not allow children to develop immunity against the shingles virus.

While the CDC does not currently state that there is a connection between the chicken pox vaccine and shingles, there are studies available showing the connection. As more information becomes available, there may be revision of the CDC stance on the vaccine.

How Pox Parties Work

Finding a pox party is as easy as searching Facebook or Google. All of these groups require membership in order to search for parties in your area.

The parties are organized to have an infected child play with children that do not already infected with the chicken pox. The children are encouraged to share food, such as lollipops, to ensure transmission of the virus.

Varicella Vaccine or Not?

Whether you choose to vaccinate or not is a personal decision. However, there are real world consequences to not vaccinating your children. Children who have not had chicken pox or have not been vaccinated can be denied entry into school. Adults who have not had chicken pox and develop it in adulthood, find that the contracting the chicken pox is very serious and deadly.

Developing immunity to the virus is the aim of both the vaccine and pox parties. The question remains deciding which avenue works best for your family.

If you have had the chicken pox, how did you contract it?

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