Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

The Problem With Chicken Pox Parties

KevinMD writes about chicken pox parties[1] and links to an article[2] about the idea.

Never heard of a chicken pox party? You probably just move in the wrong social circles.

OK. What is a chicken pox party?

Chicken pox is a disease that usually causes a lot of discomfort. How much discomfort has a lot to do with how long it has been since you were a child and had the disease, assuming that you have had the disease. A chicken pox party is a gathering of a bunch of healthy children, with no known immunity to chicken pox.

How is that a chicken pox party? It seems like a non-chicken pox party.

At least one child infected with chicken pox, advertised as highly infectious, will be there.

Why would parents let their children play with a sick child someone who can infect their child?

They want their children to get sick.


They are more afraid of the less important things, rather than chicken pox.

What less important things?

These parties will be a way of having the children sick at a predictable time. Before that illness might interfere with work, or a vacation, or some major event, like a wedding.

Why not just get their kid vaccinated?

There is the bigger problem. These parents think that they are protecting their children from the vaccine.

Is the vaccine dangerous?

Everything is dangerous. What is important is to understand the relative risks and benefits of something.

What are the risks of the chicken pox vaccine?

Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine side-effects
What are the risks from chickenpox vaccine?

Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease. Most people who get chickenpox vaccine do not have any problems with it.
However, a vaccine, like any medicine, is capable of causing serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of chickenpox vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

Mild Problems
Soreness or swelling where the shot was given (about 1 out of 5 children and up to 1 out of 3 adolescents and adults)
Fever (1 person out of 10, or less)
Mild rash, up to a month after vaccination (1 person out of 20, or less). It is possible for these people to infect other members of their household, but this is extremely rare.
MMRV vaccine has been associated with higher rates of fever (up to about 1 person in 5) and measles-like rash (about 1 person in 20) compared with MMR and varicella vaccines given separately.

Moderate Problems
Seizure (jerking or staring) caused by fever (less than 1 person out of 1,000).

Severe Problems
Pneumonia (very rare)
Other serious problems, including severe neurological problems (brain reactions) and low blood count, have been reported after chickenpox vaccination. These happen so rarely, however, that experts cannot tell whether they are caused by the vaccine or not. If they are, it is extremely rare.
This information was taken directly from the Vaccine Information Statement Adobe Acrobat print-friendly PDF file[3]

Why do parents want their children to get the disease if “Getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease?”

There is a lack of understanding of the risks of vaccines, which are small, but real risks. There is a lack of understanding of the risks of the illness, which are much larger and more serious risks.

What are the risks of chicken pox?

Varicella (Chickenpox)
Varicella (also known as Chickenpox) is a virus of the herpes family called the varicella-zoster virus. Varicella is spread by contact with the fluid from the blisters on an infected person and by coughing and sneezing. It is highly contagious. Symptoms include a skin rash of blister-like lesions, usually on the face, scalp, or trunk of the body. The rash usually starts on the face and then spreads to other parts of the body. This rash begins as red bumps that progress to blisters which eventually “crust over” before falling off, usually in one to two weeks. It is not unusual for a child to get 300 to 500 blisters during a single chickenpox infection.

Before the vaccine was available in 1995 there were 3 to 4 million cases of chickenpox in the United States per year, mostly in children 10 years of age or younger. Current figures indicating the decline in incidence of varicella infection, complications and deaths are only available from select areas of the United States due to inadequate and inconsistent reporting levels from State to State. In those States where reporting is adequate and consistent there has been a decreased incidence in varicella infection of 67 to 82 percent. Complications are more common among adolescents and adults, and in immunocompromised persons of all ages, than in children. Historically 1 out of every 10,000 cases of chickenpox proved fatal with 23 out of every 10,000 cases progressing to pneumonia.

Chickenpox has also been an important risk factor for developing severe invasive “strep” (group A streptococcal disease), commonly referred to as “flesh-eating disease.” Treatment of this deep infection requires antibiotics and surgery to remove the infected tissue. 1 in 10,000 cases of chickenpox will result in bacterial infections, decreased blood platelets, arthritis, hepatitis, and brain inflammation which may cause a failure of muscular coordination.[4]

“I’m aghast at the thought of these parties,” said Dr. Louis Cooper, a spokesman for the Infectious Disease Society of America and a professor emeritus of pediatrics at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York.

“I deeply regret that parents who are trying to do the right thing just don’t get it,” Cooper said. “The fact is that they’re right, chickenpox for most children is a mild illness. But when you see children who have the misfortune of one of the complications that are possible, you never forget it.” [5]

Offit believes that if the chickenpox vaccine becomes as widely used as the measles vaccine was back in 1963, chickenpox would go the way of the measles: away.

“When we introduced the measles vaccine, which is another virus that gets worse for patients as they get older, in 1963, we dramatically reduced the instance of measles,” Offit said. “That is what will happen here with chickenpox.”[5] (Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease at the department of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia)

These parents are putting their children at risk of serious illness, to protect them from less significant and less common problems that the vaccine might cause. They are also preventing the eradication of this illness and all of the complications associated with the illness, treatment of the illness, and vaccination against the illness.

As more of their children suffer the more serious complications of natural vaccination, a greater awareness should develop of the dangers of this infection party approach. Too bad the mental shortcomings of the parents are inflicted on the children.


^ 1 Chickenpox parties and the risk of natural immunity

^ 2 Doctors Wary of Dangerous Pox Parties
Kids Who Aren’t Vaccinated Could Face Serious Complications, Docs Warn

By Emily Friedman
Feb. 2, 2009

^ 3 Basics and Common Questions:
Possible Side-effects from Vaccines

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Vaccines Home > Basics and Common Questions > Possible Side-effects from Vaccines
Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine side-effects

^ 4 Varicella (Chicken Pox)
ECBT (Every Child By Two)
The Diseases

^ 5 Doctors Wary of Dangerous Pox Parties
Kids Who Aren’t Vaccinated Could Face Serious Complications, Docs Warn

By Emily Friedman
Feb. 2, 2009



  1. This is very useful page on the web.
    Thanks for sharing this article.
    Dr.Murat Enöz