Have you heard about the moms who are going online to buy lollipops that have supposedly been coated with the saliva of kids with chickenpox … and then having their own children suck on them? (You can see some of these parents in a news report here.) They’re doing it in hopes of infecting their little ones and obtaining “natural immunity” from the virus. They’re avoiding the varicella vaccine, which some parents believe is more dangerous than having chickenpox itself. As a mom who physically recoils when I see one of my children’s friends so much as cough near our toys, this is completely beyond my comprehension. Even if it was smart to expose your child to the virus this way (which it’s not) and even if this method was effective (very unlikely), what on earth else might be on that lollipop that you’re serving up to your child? I’m shuddering.
Health 101: The Chickenpox Vaccine
I asked one of our advisors for her opinion. Wendy Sue Swanson, M.D., is a pediatrician who has two young sons (and a fantastic blog called Seattle Mama Doc). “There’s nice data on how effective the vaccine is. But as pediatricians, we’re losing parents when explaining the benefits of the vaccine,” Dr. Swanson says. It’s not that your child can’t get chickenpox if he’s vaccinated, she explains: “But the illness will be much less severe and the likelihood of infecting other children is essentially zero. We’re giving the shot to prevent the serious, life-threatening complications that can come along with the virus, such as a brain infection or flesh-eating bacteria in the sores. We can’t tell which kids will have a run-of-the-mill, mild version of chickenpox, and which will go on to have the deadly secondary infections.” Dr. Swanson’s bottom line? “I gave this vaccine to my children without hesitation, as recommended by my pediatrician.”