Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) intentionally exposed his nine children to chickenpox instead of vaccinating them against the disease, he said in a radio interview on Tuesday.
“Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox,” Bevin told WKCT, a Bowling Green talk radio station, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal. “They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it. They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly warns against exposing children to chickenpox as a way of immunizing them.
The CDC states on its website:
Chickenpox can be serious and can lead to severe complications and death, even in healthy children. There is no way to tell in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be. So it is not worth taking the chance of exposing your child to someone with the disease. The best way to protect infants and children against chickenpox is to get them vaccinated.
Bevin said Tuesday he doesn’t think vaccines should be mandated by the government because “this is America.”
“If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child,” the governor said. “But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason, they choose otherwise. This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t.”
Children in Kentucky are required to be vaccinated for chickenpox before entering kindergarten. Parents may seek religious exemptions, though, or provide medical documentation that their child has already had the disease.
The vaccine for chickenpox became widely available in 1995, prompting a sharp decline in the number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the disease in the United States.
Bevin’s remarks come on the heels of a chickenpox outbreak reported this week at a Kentucky Catholic school where some parents had opted not to immunize their children.
The anti-vaccine movement includes parents who are reluctant to protect their children against highly infectious diseases for religious or moral reasons, as well as those who refuse immunization based on false or outdated information.
Some Catholics, for instance, object to the chickenpox vaccine based on the belief that it is derived from cells taken from aborted fetuses. (In the 1960s, strains of some vaccines were created using aborted fetus cells. That is no longer the practice.)
Some parents have also abstained from immunizing their children against measles based on the conspiracy theory that the MMR vaccine has been linked to autism. (That theory stems from a debunked 1998 study based on just 12 patients and conducted by a doctor later found to have falsified data. It has exhaustively been proven false.)