I was faced with this question earlier this week when a good friend of mine called to tell me that her 2-year-old daughter had come down with a mild case of the highly contagious childhood ailment. I offered condolences and thanked her for what I thought was a warning. I was caught off guard when she asked me if I wanted to come over for a playdate.
Apparently several of her friends have jumped at the chance to come over, get a mild version of the disease and reap the benefits of its immunizing effects. After talking to her, I looked online and saw that this type of germ-sharing self-immunization is getting to be more and more common.
The internet and my mom say people used to do it back when I was a kid, before the chicken pox vaccine was made available about ten years ago. More people are anti-vaccine now so more people are using this natural method.
My kids have all been vaccinated at this point but it did get me thinking. If they weren’t vaccinated yet, would I do it? On the surface it seems to make sense. The disease usually gets worse as kids get older and chances are good that most kids will be exposed to it at some point so if they’re gonna get it, it’s better for them to get it earlier rather than later.
But even at the best of times, it’s not a pleasant experience and there can be horrible complications with chicken pox. I worry that the time I decided to purposefully infect my kids would be the time the disease morphed or the time it was a misdiagnosed case of small pox revisited.
I read a lot about vaccines when deciding what to do with my three kids and I’ve become a strong vaccine supporter. I think they save lives and the medical professionals I love and trust agree and immunize their own kids.
But another friend I talked to today, who also immunizes her kids, thinks the chicken pox party is a good idea. It’s one of those illnesses that seems so minor, especially in babies, that I think more people are willing to try for exposure immunity instead of sticking their kids with needles, even if they are not strictly anti-vaccine.
After considering it all afternoon, I feel certain that no, I would not purposefully expose my kids to any illness in an uncontrolled way. I know there are those who think that injecting them with vaccines and the additives they contain is even worse but I respectfully disagree.
How about you? Would you do it?