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Chickenpox Lollipops Rehash Debate Over Vaccines

Posted on the 11 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

Chickenpox lollipops rehash debate over vaccines

Lollipops, now available in pox-flavoured. Photo credit: Swamibu,

Reports that parents in the US are buying their children chickenpox-infected lollipops – at as much as $50 a pop, in one case – in effort to avoid having to get their children the new pox vaccine are now freaking people out on both sides of the Atlantic.

Last week, reports from local television news stations in Phoenix, Az. and Nashville, Tenn. that parents were turning to Facebook to find lollipops, among other items, from children who have the illness prompted a Tennessee district attorney to warn parents that trafficking in poxy pops isn’t just gross and unsafe, it’s illegal, too. Jerry Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, toldThe Associated Press that it’s a federal crime to ship viruses or diseases across state lines, though he would not confirm or deny whether his office was currently investigating anyone suspected of the crime. The news agency also spoke with Dr. Isaac Thomsen, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, who noted that the poxy lollies or other poxed-up items probably wouldn’t contain enough of the virus to cause the chickenpox – but added that it could transmit other, perhaps more deadly, viruses, including hepatitis B.

Martin, the voice of sweet reason here, asked, “Can you imagine getting a package in the mail from this complete stranger that you know from Facebook because you joined a group, and say here, drink this purported spit from some other kid?”

The answer for most people is, of course, no, and media reports may be somewhat inflated. But while chickenpox-infected lollipops might not exactly be sweeping the nation, reports are about them are, recalling the pox-party trend of the last decade; moreover, they’re also rehashing the perpetual debate over whether parents should vaccinate their children.

Chickenpox lollipops rehash debate over vaccines

Chickenpox is caused by the Varicella zoster virus and is a less-strong cousin to smallpox. Photo credit: Jacob Johan,

Bad reaction? One woman who ran a Facebook page called “Find a Pox Party Near You” told the BBC that she started the page after her son had a severe reaction to his vaccinations, developing chronic encephalitis, seizures and a 105.7-degree temperature. “He was never the same after those vaccinations,” she said, adding that her child’s doctor told her not to get any of her other children vaccinated. She shut down the page after media reports prompted significant backlash, but said she will continue to facilitate the parties offline and away from the “media glare”.

To vaccinate or not – Chuck Norris says no. In the UK, the BBC reported, furor over the supposed link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism died down after the work of the man who proposed it, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, was discredited and he was struck off the medical register. “It is a different story in the US, however, where a celebrity-driven campaign against vaccines has kept the issue in the public eye,” the news agency continued, adding that bearded action star Chuck Norris recently jumped into the fray with an article claiming that there is in fact a link – and a cover-up, too.

The Great Pox Party. The New York Post’s Page Six Magazine, ever on top of a trend, went “Inside New York Chicken Pox Parties” in 2009, painting images of spotty, pox-infected children sharing lollipops and hugs with their not-sick friends in an effort to infect them. The reason, the magazine claimed, was that the recent debate over the disproved link between vaccines and autism had made parents fearful of getting their children the varicella vaccine and had them turning to more natural methods. Pediatricians, unsurprisingly, were unimpressed by this display of parental ingenuity: “Chicken pox parties are a terrible mistake,” Dr. Anne Gershon, professor of pediatrics at Columbia University and president of the Infectious Disease Society of America, told the magazine. “Imagine how you would feel if you took your kid to one and they came down with encephalitis or group A strep. Most of the time chicken pox is a mild disease, but you can die from the complications.”

‘Me-me-me’ mindset. Julia Llewellyn Smith, writing at The Daily Mail, was both sufficiently grossed out and convinced that parents were actually “snapping up” the lollipox to put fingers to keyboard and tap out her admonishments. “I wouldn’t dream of taking my children to a chickenpox party, nor a swine flu shindig, which were all the rage last year among the daft parents who, despite decent educations, consider vaccinations a sinister plot by big business to harm our immune systems and make us buy more drugs, rather than an attempt to save lives,” she wrote. “To me, ‘pox parties’ and ‘Lollipox’ are just another symptom of the ‘Me-Me-Me’ mindset that affects so many mothers. You see them on buses hogging the wheelchair spaces with buggies the size of spaceships, and in restaurants where their children rampage. And now, it seems, in doctor’s surgeries, thrilled that their child has chickenpox, and to hell if they’re breathing germs over the other patients.”

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