Taking a page straight out of the anti-vaccine movement’s playbook, Kentucky’s Republican Governor Matt Bevin said that instead of getting his kids vaccinated against the chicken pox, he sent them to neighbors whose children were already infected to expose them to the virus.
“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,” Bevins said during an interview with a local radio station. “They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”
Bevin also questioned mandatory vaccination laws which require children to be up to date on their required vaccinations before entering school.
“Why are we forcing kids to get it?” he asked. “If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child. 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.”
Bevin’s approach to his children’s health is similar to a practice by vaccine-hesitant parents where they organize playdates with other unvaccinated children who have been infected with measles in order to “build up their immunity.” In 2017, The Washington Post ran a story about a group of parents and activists in Minnesota who planned to hold “measles parties” for kids as an alternative to vaccinating.
Bevin’s comments come as numerous outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases pop up around the country.
Speaking to the Courier Journal, pediatrician and vaccine expert Dr. Robert Jacobson said that Bevin’s approach to his children’s health is dangerous.
“We’re no longer living in the 17th century,” Jacobson said.
“I really recommend to my parents that they vaccinate their children, that they do it in a timely manner, and they recognize they are doing the right thing for their children.”
The chicken pox vaccine has been available since 1995.
According to Dr. Ruth Carrico, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, the chickenpox is often incorrectly viewed as a harmless disease. In reality, it can be fatal to children and can cause serious complications in adults.
“On more than one occasion, I have had a patient who is a pregnant woman who became exposed to chickenpox and became ill and developed pneumonia,” Carrico told the Courier Journal. “Either she or her baby or both did not survive.”
Featured image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr