Poxsicle Parties: Ashland Oregon Parents Against Vaccinations

I’ve been keeping most of my parenting/daddyblogging over at DazedDad.com, but I just ran across this article on Facebook and had to share it here. The Ashland Daily Tidings just posted an article called “Poxsicle Parties.

First, a little background. Ashland has the highest rate of non-vaccinated children in the state of Oregon (and has been recognized by the CDC as one of the highest in the nation). A few years ago, Frontline did a special called The Vaccine War, in which Ashland was highlighted. You can watch the clip about Ashland below (skip to 3:52), in which our pediatrician is interviewed and talks about how with a high percentage of non vaccinated children, Ashland is ripe for a potential outbreak. That’s awesome…

Back to the Ashland Daily Tidings article: it talks about parents who throw “pox parties” when their children get chicken pox, to try to give it to other children to help build up a natural immunity to it. Here’s a section from the article:

Pox parties are advertised through word of mouth, invitation-only Facebook groups and message boards. Parents on the local email group Mamas Medicine Wheel recently offered to host and searched for someone to host a chicken pox party. At the parties, children share food or drink with a child who has the chicken pox.

One Ashland mother, who did not want to be named, said she has taken her 7-year-old son to four chicken pox parties over the past two years. At these events, she’s seen a variety of transmission methods, including shared gum, lollipops, and Popsicles.

“If he catches the chicken pox, I’d host a party for moms I know in the community,” she said. “So far, he hasn’t caught it, but we’ll keep trying.”

Gosh, I wonder what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention think about chickenpox parties:

“Chickenpox parties” have been held to increase a child’s chance of getting chickenpox while he or she is still young. Chickenpox can be serious, especially for infants and even for some children. So, it is not worth taking the chance of exposing them to chickenpox. The best way to protect infants and children against chickenpox is to get them vaccinated.

They also linked to an article at the National Network for Immunization Information here.

Before we had Caleb, I had no idea that vaccination was such a highly charged controversy. I had no idea that Jenny McCarthy, a former Playboy model, had become a spokesperson for the anti-vaccine movement (although, she says they aren’t truly against vaccines). And I had never heard of people having pox parties.

And I don’t get it.

I’m sure that we’ll meet folks here in Ashland who are against vaccinations, and I’m sure that people have their own well-thought-out reasons for making those decisions, but I just have a hard time understanding where they’re coming from. And if Caleb were to contract pertussis, or something else really serious, from a classmate who was not immunized, I think it’d be a little bit challenging for me to remember that I’m a pastor in the community, because it would frankly piss me off.

It just seems crazy to me that you’d want your kids to get chicken pox…kids die from it. There can be complications. And to try to get your kid to contract it at a party, swapping spit with a child who has chicken pox…that sounds kind of cruel if you ask me. In fact, when I posted about this on Facebook, some folks even went as far as to say “child abuse comes in all forms.” I wouldn’t want to go that far, but it does seem like something that just doesn’t sound right.

Do you know people who have been to “pox parties” before? What are your thoughts on the phenomenon?

[Top Image Credit: Jamie Lusch of The Daily Tidings]


  1. Jerilyn says

    The professor of the Autism class that I am currently taking talked about this one community in Oregon where the percentage of children who are not vaccinated is the highest in the nation – didn’t realize that it’s where you live. You want to know what I think about it? It’s freaking SCARY. I would go so far to say that those choosing not to vaccinate their children are not only ignorant but extremely selfish, because now THEY are putting the rest of your children at risk. Not OK. There are diseases that children are now getting that young pediatricians have never even seen because they were completely eliminated in our country, but because of people deciding that they know best, they’ve allowed them to come back. It’s ridiculous. As you can see, I’m a little passionate about it, and if I were you I’d make DAMN sure not to go to a playgroup with those folks, not because I don’t agree with them, but because they could get your child very, very sick.

  2. Meghan says

    Chicken pox parties definitely seem silly now that a vaccine is available, but when we were growing up catching chicken pox WAS the vaccine. I remember groups of kids being invited over to the houses of kids who got chicken pox, although I don’t think anyone was encouraging us to swap spit in quite such a pushy way as described above. My understanding is since we were all going to get it eventually (I don’t think I know anyone who hasn’t had chicken pox), our parents were trying to arrange so that we had it while we were young and otherwise healthy, rather than grow up to be adults who were vulnerable to the virus – Shingles can be outrageously painful. I would definitely vaccinate my kids against chicken pox, and wish that the parents described above would too, but this is not a new phenomenon, nor is it cruel. The worst thing that’s going to happen to those kids is that they’re going to get chicken pox. It’s the other vaccines that they’re missing that we should be most concerned about.

  3. Jeannie says

    I found your blog while doing research for a college paper arguing that vaccinations should be required. It is astounding to me that people choose/refuse to protect their children. It is the equivalent of drunk driving. You’re not only risking your child, but everyone around them is exposed. I was suprised that most of the reasons given seem to be some sort of social rebellion. One mother interviewed said that the government should not tell her what to do. In case no one else has noticed, the government pretty much tells everyone what to do. Grow up and look at your community. Have some concern for your neighbor as well as yourself. Talk to your medical professional before you decide to follow the opinions of an actress. Before I had a child I believed in vaccines. I grew up in a farming family and had seen the effects of vaccination on the health of animals. There’s yet another irony, the people who refuse vaccines for their children often have pets, and their pets are vaccinated. They would never think of letting their dog contract parvo or rabies to build up immunity.

    • Russella says

      This reply is in response to “Jeannie”, the well-intentioned but misinformed and rather hysterical (brainwashed) college student, above, as well as a general response to the hysterical replies about non-vaccinating parents. By hysteria, I refer to the historical interpretation of the word, such as “Red Scare” and any other such mob mentality that follows a long-held, prescribed conventional belief, often brainwashed, and no longer bothers to question the validity of it, or have any method of critical thinking.

      The paradigm is shifting from a government-is-right-and-is-backed-by-science stance and towards a more informed, educated perspective. Let’s see if I can educate this “Jeannie” in terms that a five-year-old could understand:

      1. The process of immunity is reaction-based, that is, it is complicated but begins with exposure to an antigen, then produces a humeral response and other complex processes. You can’t bypass it simply by introducing an attenuated or live virus and expecting immunity to magically appear. Important: the presence of antibodies does not indicate immunity to the specified antigen.

      2. Diet, nutrition, sanitation, lifestyle, and even sleep hygiene contribute more to effective immunity and overall health more than any vaccine could. The immune system is an elegant, fierce protector of the organism and can dispatch most anything from a case of warts to condyloma (HPV) to pneumonia to the flu, etc ad nauseum with the proper self-care and time, and with no long-lasting ill effects. A vaccine cannot claim this, with all of its risks. With the exception of polio, no vaccine has proven to reduce illness. Case in point: “Epidemiologist C. C. Dauer remarked, as far back as 1943:
      “If mortality [from pertussis] continues to decline at the same rate during the next fifteen years [as in the last fifteen], it will be extremely difficult to show statistically that [pertussis vaccination] had any effect in reducing mortality from whooping cough.”

      3. Parvovirus and rabies are life-threatening diseases for which exposure offers no immunity. Therefore, this analogy does not apply to the so-called “vaccine-preventable” (which they do not prevent, otherwise they would be eradicated) diseases like measles and mumps.

      Well, those are three of many points, perhaps not as simply written for a five year old to understand as promised, but I’m hopeful that a farm-raised college student like Jeannie has at least a rudimentary understanding of logic and spelling to understand and only APPEARS simple-minded due to her criticisms. When people like her, so numerous, lash out against educated people who have seen the risks far outweigh the benefits (*possible* protection against the mumps versus potential meningitis or DEATH) and see the conflicts of interests (AAP, CDC, and others receiving millions of dollars from the vaccine manufacturers), I start to think of brainwashed lemmings imagining a danger to them that doesn’t even exist.

      • Corey says

        I’m currently a health student. All of my instructors have doctoral degrees and stay very up to date and educated on current health topics, especially vaccines. Some of them are on National boards and are very credible resources. You shouldn’t be so ignorant about college students and the education they’re receiving. From what I see you’re stereotyping.
        I don’t believe any information until I look into the resource and I was wondering what your credentials are or if you’re a researcher? How did you learn about these statements? I will be giving my child vaccines.

  4. laura says

    If you are so confident in vaccinations, and your child is vaccinated, then why are you worried about your child being infected from another child?

  5. Colleen Gray says

    On the one had I am completely against forced vaccinations for a myriad of what I consider good reasons. Personally growing up in my family unit and extended family ie. school/ neighborhood we all had a reasonable number of illnesses such as the flu. cold, mumps, measles, roseola I personally had pertussis (whooping cough) as a very young child it was shitty alright but I survived it and none of my siblings or anyone else got it. These things just showed up occasionally and sometimes went through the family but we survived them and never went to a doctor our parents pretty much knew how to treat, comfort, and allow these things to run their course. There was no panic, hysteria it just was matter of fact. I don’t remember any deaths occurring within our community through all the years growing up . Parents naturally kept their children home when their kids were sick. Picture a child in his pjs. .sitting at home on the porch while watching the other kids playing in the park :/ the the hardest part of being sick. As an adult I have a pretty darn good immune system I have passed my antibodies on to my children….I have not taken a vaccine ever and as an adult I cannot remember the last time I’ve had the flu I am 60…My siblings and daughters don’t take vaccines and rarely get anything more than a cold now and then…….I’ll take my own immune system that has been ingeniously evolved and designed through thousands plus 60 years….On the other hand “poxsicle parties” if they really do exist (questionable to me) that would be just plain silly and not really helpful in terms of looking at the whole forced vaccination issue intelligently. This wealthy country is more unhealthy, medicated, drugged, “ill” insecure then it was 50 years ago you would think it would be the opposite why? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Fear sells.

    • Jennyct says

      Good thing you got the polio and smallpox vaccine. You wouldn’t want to get those diseases ‘naturally.’ Injecting antigens into your body is very similar to ‘catching’ the disease, only safer.
      If you haven’t had a serious illness for many years, good luck to you.

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