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Parents avoid vaccine by spreading disease through mail
November 9th, 2011
10:42 AM ET

Parents avoid vaccine by spreading disease through mail

Parents who don’t want to give their children the chickenpox vaccine are choosing instead to buy mail-order lollipops already sucked on by sick kids.

They hope their child will get chickenpox and then develop a natural immunity.

CNN affiliate KPHO in Phoenix found a Facebook website called “Find a Pox Party in Your Area,” which included postings of parents willing to ship infected items across the country.

“Fresh batch of Pox in Nashville Tennessee. Shipping of suckers, spit, and Q-tips available tomorrow. $50 via PayPal,” reads one post. It goes on to explain the money covers overnight shipping.

Parents allow children whose chickenpox is contagious to infect the item before packing and shipping it to parents elsewhere in the country. Those parents then give the items to their children in the hopes they will come down with chickenpox.

“Our round was FedEx’d fromArizona!” reads one Facebook post quoted by KPHO. “We’ve spread cooties to Cookeville, Knoxville and Louisiana.”

The website, which had about 1,000 Facebook likes, has now been removed. Archived versions of the site show its purpose listed as “a group for parents who want their children to obtain natural immunity for the chicken pox.”

Sending the saliva, lollipops, or other material could pose other health risks as well. “You are sending out other germs, other bacteria, and you have no idea what is in them” says Dr. Bill Schaffner, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. It’s not even clear it will work. “It is not a good way to transmit chickenpox” he says. “Typically somebody breathes out the virus and then somebody else breaths it in.”

The chickenpox (or varicella) vaccine became available in the United States in 1995. Nearly 6% of parents don’t vaccinate their children with it as recommended, according to a study published last month in the journal Pediatrics.

Side effects of the vaccine include soreness or swelling where the shot was given, a fever in one in 10 people, and a rash in one out of 25. Seizure and pneumonia are also possible, but the CDC says they are “very rare” adding “getting chickenpox vaccine is much safer than getting chickenpox disease.”

Before the vaccine, chickenpox caused more than 10,000 hospitalizations in an average year in the U.S., and between 1990 and 1994 about 50 children and 50 adults died each year according to the CDC. The majority were in previously healthy individuals.

“What is obviously going on is we have some mothers who are trying to be imaginative and are vaccine skeptics,” says Schaffner. He says this is a new variation of the chickenpox party, where parents would allow healthy children to play with infected ones to get the virus. “Chickenpox parties are really bad ideas,” he says. “There is not a pediatrician in the country that would recommend this.”

KPHO also found a few comments where parents were looking to have their children infected with measles mumps and rubella. Those diseases could be even more dangerous.

What these parents are doing violates federal law according to Jerry Martin, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. “Sending a virus or disease through the U.S. mail is illegal,” he says. “Also, it is against federal law to adulterate or tamper with consumer products, such as candy. Finally, it is illegal to introduce into interstate commerce unauthorized biological materials.”

Policy prevents him from saying whether his office is  investigating parents who sent the lollipops and other items.


soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. Mike

    I got the chicken pox vaccine in the 90's when I was a child. I didn't die, I didn't have seizures, I didn't develop autism. Listening to Jenny McCarthy over a doctor is insane. I love the parents who get their scientific and medical information from websites like webmd. Fever and inflammation are usually a GOOD thing, that means your immune system is working. Also alot of the viruses used in vaccines are weak, partial, or completely dead strains which can't hurt you. You are exposed to far more live antigens (the stuff your immune system builds antibodies for) every day. By the way i'm actually a biolgist...

    November 12, 2011 at 05:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. D.Jackson

    this story is insane... so people would rather get a lollipop from a stranger let there kids eat it and get chicken pox rather than get their child the vaccine...i cant believe parents are suggesting this.. parents protect there children not put them in danger. you never know what other kinds of bacteria/illnesses these children have. if you don't your child to get the vaccine that is your decision but don't put them in any more danger because of your stupid ego!! get your child vaccinated and go on with your life.

    November 12, 2011 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. jillmarie

    Gross! Just get the darn vaccine, stop living in fear.

    November 12, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. P Deuel

    My doughter was 4 when she got chickenpox , and she was very sick. She broke out internenly and had them in her throat , mouth, stomach , rectum,. she ended up hospitilized. They are not just a harmless childhood deasese they can be deadly.

    November 12, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Taser

    Don't have kids. Problem solved!

    November 12, 2011 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tara

      Thanks, but I don't want to live the self-absorbed life.

      June 18, 2012 at 19:32 | Report abuse |
    • Allergictostupidity

      What an ignorant comment. You keep blindly following what your doctor says and see how far that will get you. Kudos to the REAL moms who do their own research on vaccines to protect their babies and set them up for a life of HEALTH!

      August 5, 2012 at 00:34 | Report abuse |
  6. Mehitabel

    Not all "childhood" diseases affect only children. I didn't get chickenpox until I was in my 20's, and I spent a week in the hospital due to complications from the virus. Sending infected items through the mail or other shipping services is not only cavalier, it can be dangerous for some people.

    November 12, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Ann

    I had the vaccine as a child and was fine. However, I got chickenpox as a high school senior, and was rather sick. My art teacher, upon hearing this, brought her child into school(I went while I was still contagious, since well, it's high school and most people have had it) so she would get sick off me, because although she was planning on vaccinating her kid, she realized it wasn't perfectly effective. Her kid didn't get sick, but I felt terrible! At least I was mature enough not to scratch my poxes. Sadly, this experience deterred me from getting the HPV vaccine, because I feel a false sense of safety is not good.

    November 12, 2011 at 21:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sue Blue

    This is just textbook lack of critical thinking skills brought on by crappy education and lemming-like crowd-following. The pox party idea suffers from the "argument from tradition" logical fallacy that says that if something has been done or accepted for a long time, it must be right or true. Also, the "my kids got the pox from a party were just fine" is yet another false argument. A lot of people drive while drunk and manage not to kill themselves or others – is that okay too? Just because you got away with it doesn't make it a good idea.
    Another thing – vaccines are not some sort of toxic chemical or drug that the big, bad, evil government or pharmaceutical companies are itching to pump into your kids. They are actually made from inactivated or killed forms of the virus or bacteria they are meant to protect you against; some are made just from pieces of the bacterial or viral proteins. They stimulate your immune system to make antibodies just like the actual disease, without causing the actual disease. This principle of infecting people with mild forms of the disease to prevent the full-blown illness has been around for hundreds of years, with the drawback that it often did cause severe disease and death. Vaccines use the same principle but because the viral or bacterial components are dead, inactivated or incomplete, they do not cause disease. These pox partiers are harking back to the ancient technique of inoculation when modern science has provided a much safer way.
    Here's my take on anti-vaxxers: "Because two hundred years of epidemiology and a hundred years of bacteriology and virology and thousands of studies and trials on millions of people around the globe, the global eradication of smallpox and the near eradication of polio, as well as the combined knowledge and experience of millions of medical doctors is outweighed by the opinions of some celebrities and the websites of a few quacks."

    Come on people, take the time and effort to educate yourself in the basics of biology and get information from credible, qualified sources before making life and death choices for yourself and your children. No person is an island. The choice you make for your child may mean the life or death of someone else's child.

    November 13, 2011 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Phoenixtoo

      Critical thinking requires constant learning and vigilance. Our history shows we thought the earth was flat at one point, too. Just because something was appropriate for what we knew in the past, doesn't mean it is now, or that the persons behind the research and the product are altruistic as in the past. Linus Pauling gave his polio research and vaccine away for the greater good. No patent. Now, drug companies are scurrilous in protecting their product and their bottom line for even higher profits. Grouping together infant vaccines for even better profits, in spite of little research into the affects, and only when affects are shown to them by families and doctors with affected children, Thimerosal was pulled from children vaccines.

      November 13, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse |
    • Sue Blue

      Salk and Sabin were bitter enemies, each competing to prove his own polio vaccine was safer and more effective. People at the time were desperate to protect their children from the crippling disease. The initial decision to use the killed-virus Salk vaccine was made by committee based on the fear of actual infection from the oral Sabin vaccine and the urgency of the epidemic problem. Thousands lined up for the injections. One batch, produced in haste to answer the need, was inadequately treated to kill the virus, resulting in hundreds of cases of polio. Still, people lined up to get vaccinated, because they had seen the devastating disease firsthand and assessed the risk from that point of view. Later, it was discovered through further research and clinical trials that the Sabin vaccine produced longer-lasting immunity and now the oral vaccine is used exclusively.

      Are manufacturers perfect? Are doctors and scientists never motivated by greed or need for recognition? Are politics never involved? Can anything be 100% safe? Not in this world. As technology advances and new research produces results, medications and vaccines are modified in light of that information. This is part of the scientific process, and in no way means that medicine as a whole (or even pharmaceutical companies) are out to get you. Nothing can ever be made risk-free. The good done by vaccines for humanity far outweighs the risk of rare adverse reactions or the occasional manufacturing error. Millions of people are seriously allergic to peanuts, and now foods made with peanuts or in facilities that process peanuts have warnings on them. This in no way indicates that peanut farmers and food manufacturers were out to kill people in a quest for profits in the past.
      Yes, some children may have an allergic or adverse reaction to a vaccine. However, realistic risk-assessment tells us that that child is at far greater risk of dying every time he or she gets into a car or swims in a pool. And anybody who can remember the devastating epidemics of childhood diseases of the past or who has seen them in the third world (as I have) can tell you that a transient fever and a few aches and pains (the typical vaccine reaction) is a small price to pay to avoid disfigurement, paralysis, and death.

      November 13, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • Sue Blue

      Phoeixtoo: Have you thought that maybe combining different vaccines into one might just be motivated by the desire not to stick a needle into a child so often?

      November 13, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
  9. Phoenixtoo

    Oops, Salk and Sabin discovered polio vaccine. Linus Pauling did research on Vitamin C.

    November 13, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Lady Bex

    You really need to look at how the vaccines are made, too. Something containing a live virus can be just as dangerous as the disease itself. Now, they could have changed the formulation for the vaccine by now (and I hope they have) but when my sister got it about 15 years ago, my other sister and I got chickenpox from her vaccine because it contained a live virus. Anytime you put chemicals into your body you need to do your homework and see what's in them, how they are made, and all possible side effects! However, that's still no excuse for moms giving their kids already-slobbered-on lollipops in order to "vaccinate" them...

    November 13, 2011 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. dodo

    20 years from now, I won't be surprised when researchers awaken to find a slew of neonate chickenpox cases (quite deadly and very sad) for women who were given the vaccine due to all that forceful government coercing of parents who go with the flow and who failed to pass that so called immunity to their newborns. It is not clear intraplacental immunity gets transferred to the baby in cases of mothers who are merely vaccinated, and the vaccine hasn't been around long enough to find that out. So, in spite of all that dirt throwing to those desperate parents, it will take some time to see which is more deadly, suffocating kids with this unnecessary vaccine now (note I am not saying all vaccines are unnecessary, some are doubtlessly huge!), or discovering a huge increase in varicella and shingles-related mortality in 20 or so years due to it waning effects. Natural immunity gives one's newborn baby the intraplacental immunity that lasts well into the first year of life and without which many babies might suffer needlessly. Unless chickenpox is irradicated(fat chance!, go and tell anybody but the US health authorities that chickenpox is deadly while so many really deadly diseases are still around the world) those who are merely vaccinated should always live in fear of getting the disease. Clearly, these parents who use the post for infected items are driven by desperation to give their children real immunity, which is not something the vaccine gives even if you add 10 boosters of the same gunk periodically. And this desperation is clearly borne out of the current coercive vaccination system.

    November 13, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      Thing is, as many on this thread have pointed out already, the vaccine does not protect you 100%. My daughter, for example, was vaccinated as a baby and still got a very mild case of chicken pox while in kindergarten. (Just a few pox, at a time when it was making the rounds at her school). I daresay, though she didn't get really sick, she carried away some "real" immunity from that as well, but without the risk of serious complications. A non-vaccinated colleague of mine had chickenpox in his 30s and got really, really sick...

      November 29, 2011 at 09:25 | Report abuse |
  12. Nicole

    I got the chicken pox as a kid and was fine, no severe symptoms. But I guess each child (or person) is affected differently... Actually we did that whole "Pox Party" thing that the article mentioned not to do. lol. But the only difference was it was not intential, the "party" didn't take place untill after we all had the virus:

    As a child my mom had an "at-home-daycare" thingy with about 8 or 9 kids, one evening my mom got a phone call from one of the parents saying her daughter and son wouldn't be comming over in the morning due to the chicken pox... That same evening she got 2 more calls saying the same thing from different parents. I eventually developed the same symptoms of chicken pox too. It turned out to be that one of the kids (we were unsure of who) had spread it to every single one of us, so my mom called all the parents back up and told them to not to bother taking off from work and to bring all the kids over since we all had the virus... it is so funny, because our parents took so many silly pictures of us, and to this day (as an teenager) I am still good friends with some of those kids and we bring it up into conversation every so often... "Yeah, were such good friends that we even share chicken pox... and sometmes chicken nuggets too." lol. People just look at us oddly, but to us it's an inside joke and we don't bother explaining it to people. haha.

    Anyways, back to the point of the story, none of us had severe symptoms and we all had a full blown case of the virus – I don't think it's as bad as they make it out to be. But later in life I got the vaccine, when most kids get the booster-shot or whatever it is. I would still recomend giving the shot to kids, (and so would my mom), as a matter of fact my mom recently took my little nephew to get vaccinated. The whole mailing lolipops thing is absurd (in my own personal opinion), but hey, "to each his own..."

    November 16, 2011 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sue Blue

      The whole lollipop-mailing thing is also a felony. I bet you wouldn't be saying "to each his own" if these morons inadvertently infected dozens of kids with meningitis with their spit-covered chickenpox pops. The meningitis bacteria, Neisseria meningitides, is much more likely to survive in spit on a lollipop than the chickenpox virus.

      November 27, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
  13. Carlson

    I think people are becoming crazy here in the United States. You don't know what else could be on the infected items other than chickenpox. It is understandable there are those who have their doubts about pharmaceutical companies, but this is completely insane. I'm not a believer that there is a pill for everything or cure all either. These loopy activists need to stop brainwashing parents into doing dangerous things with their children. Time to stand up against these troublesome ideas. Folks need to gather REAL scientific data other than simply believing an urban myth or loosely put together articles claiming to have some scientific elements when in actuality they do not. Common sense needs to be added to the mix too.

    December 5, 2011 at 22:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. CarlsonJ

    I think people are becoming crazy here in the United States. Who knows what else could be on the infected items other than chickenpox. It is understandable there are those who have their doubts about pharmaceutical companies, but this is completely insane. I'm not a believer that there is a pill for everything or cure all either. These loopy activists need to stop brainwashing parents into doing dangerous things with their children. Time to stand up against these troublesome ideas. Folks need to gather REAL scientific data other than simply believing an urban myth or loosely put together articles claiming to have some scientific elements when in actuality they do not. Common sense needs to be added to the mix too.

    December 5, 2011 at 22:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. starmix85

    as a child, i also had the chicken pox. actually, my siblings and I all got it at the same time. it was an annoyance for a few days, but went away with no real complications. for those of you defending ALL vaccines, please check your facts. there is mercury in these shots. u know a child's body is only able to take so much of that? and u give them way more. before you make fun of Jenny McCarthy or other celebrities (who r only heard because they are "famous") for voicing their experiences, why not look at the numbers increasing of children affected? i am not bashing anyone for getting their child vaccinated. that is your own, personal choice. i would love nothing more than to be fearless and protect my child by doing all of that, but this truth is i am scared. i have a nephew who was born a normal, happy, healthy baby...we saw him regress right before our eyes due to autism after his MMR. it was a real-eye opener. at age 4, he is finally up to where he should be developmentally but it has been a long, hard road. everyone is so quick to judge until it happens to someone that they love. i have no idea what i plan on doing when my child arrives, but i can tell you i would never order the chicken pox through the mail. who does that?

    December 7, 2011 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Taylor_12

    I'm doing my current affair on this!

    December 8, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Tara

    These parents are really, really STUPID. And they are spreading diseases around, very socially irresponsible.

    June 18, 2012 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Jerome Tenario

    Chickenpox is most infectious from one to two days before the rash starts, until all the blisters have crusted over (usually five to six days after the start of the rash).If your child has chickenpox, try to keep them away from public areas to avoid contact with people who have not had it, especially people who are at risk of serious problems, such as newborn babies, pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system (for example, people having cancer treatment or taking steroid tablets)..

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    February 28, 2013 at 01:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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