Parents hoping to avoid giving their children the chicken pox vaccine are instead choosing to voluntarily infect their children using mail-order lollipops that have been licked by other infected children.
A CNN affiliate, KPHO, discovered the story when they came across a Facebook page called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area.” The page, which has now been removed, had 1,000 Facebook Likes postings by parents willing to sell and ship infected chicken pox lollipops across the state. One post read: “Fresh batch of Pox in Nashville Tennessee. Shipping of suckers, spit, and Q-tips available tomorrow. $50 via PayPal.”
According to an archived version of the page, its’ purpose was “for parents who want their children to obtain natural immunity for the chicken pox.”
Dr. Bill Schaffner, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told CNN that sending already-licked lollipops could pose other health risks the parents might not be aware of. “You are sending out other germs, other bacteria, and you have no idea what is in them,” says Schaffner. He also added that it wasn’t even a very effective way to transmit the virus. “Typically somebody breathes out the virus and then somebody else breaths it in.”
Schaffner said that the lollipop idea is a variation on the “chicken pox party,” which he stated are “really bad ideas.” “There is not a pediatrician in the country that would recommend this,” he added.
The chickenpox vaccine (also known as varicella) became available to the general public in 1995. While the vaccine has rare side effects, such as swelling at the site of injection, soreness, pneumonia, and in extremely rare cases seizures, it is proven to be safer than the virus itself. Before the vaccine, chickenpox caused more than 10,000 hospitalizations a year in the United States, and between 1990 and 1994, 100 people died each year from the virus.
Jerry Martin, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, said that what these parents are doing is against the law. “Sending a virus or disease through the U.S. mail is illegal,” he says. “Also, it is against federal law to adulterate or tamper with consumer products, such as candy. Finally, it is illegal to introduce into interstate commerce unauthorized biological materials.”
What do you think of the lollipop idea? Would you ever take your child to a chickenpox party?