When I was growing up, it was understood that getting chicken pox was an inevitability. My older brother got it first. I saw the red welts appear on his body and he, enviably, got to stay home from school for several days, playing video games and eating crackers and sipping on ginger ale.
I, in a jealous fit of rage at his good fortune, decided to take matters into my own hands and rub myself with his pajamas after fetching them from the laundry. Which was probably an unnecessarily gross move. Was it a power move? Absolutely, but nasty and worthless nonetheless.
Worthless because I wasn't being slick or "fooling" anybody by going around and doing that. My mother let me play with my older brother and sit in the same room as him, probably because she was hoping I'd get chicken pox at the same time and "get it out of my system" early.
It worked. Soon I was feverish and coughing up a storm. Red welts and marks appeared all over my body as well.
Was I itchy? Yes. Uncomfortable? You betcha. But I got to watch all The Price Is Right that I wanted for a whole week until those unsightly little scabs went away. And when they did, I was content with the knowledge that I "got the pox out of my body" and my immune system was stronger or whatever. I wasn't really paying attention to what my mom was telling me because Bob Barker's majesty was so distracting.
But a vaccine for the chicken pox has been around for more than 20 years, and even though I enjoyed that time home, I have to say that it probably would've been a heck of a lot better for me and my siblings to have never gotten the pox in the first place.
As a parent myself, I'm totally OK with vaccinating my kids and my son's currently protected against the chicken pox, measles and whatever else his pediatrician recommended, but there is a large number of parents who are against vaccinating their children.
And they're deciding to go about the chicken pox "cure" the old-fashioned way: by exposing them to other kiddos who carry the virus, in the hopes their children get the disease early on and "build up an immunity to it."
And because we're living in the future, parents are using the modern marvels of social media (Facebook) to create groups where they set playdates for their children who don't have chicken pox, with other kids who do, in the hopes that they'll contract the illness.
The same effect could be achieved by just administering one's child with a vaccine, because that's how vaccines work — which might be why there's been a negative reaction to parents who participate in these groups online.
9News got their hands on some screenshots taken from a private Facebook group where members were sharing the best strategies for getting their children sick on these playdates. If I'm being completely honest, the attention to detail is a bit disturbing, even though I know their intentions are "good."
Sharing lollipops and encouraging kids to be in enclosed spaces like pillow forts, that are first occupied by the sick kid and duping them into staying in the space for a long time by encouraging prolonged tablet video-watching sessions are all stratagems employed by parents who want their kids to contract chicken pox.
Judging from screencapped messages from this "host" parent, it definitely appears like people are making good on their "quarantine party" playdates. The person delineates all of the times people can swing by her place for a chance to get them infected.
My favorite part of the message is that her 17-year-old seems to think the entire process is weird (bless him), and it seems like the gung-ho person who offered their sickly services is rather proud of the fact that their husband came home with shingles.
The subject of vaccination is a hot-button issue, just go into any online discussion on Facebook and try arguing with any anti-vaxxing individual who's got boatloads of anecdotal evidence they'll use to support their claims.
Regardless of what anyone believes, doctors, healthcare, and medical professionals are overwhelmingly in favor of vaccinations, like molecular biologist and co-founder of Community Immunity, Lindsay Diamond, who spoke about the dangers behind these chicken pox playdates.
Diamond argues that the idea of building a "natural immunity" is not actually better than developing one with the assistance of vaccines. In short, it's an unnecessary risk that parents shouldn't be taking and that they are needlessly putting their children's lives in danger.
"There’s this emphasis on natural immunity being better than vaccine-delivered immunity. So, the idea [is] that you would get your child chickenpox, and that would give them this sort of life-long immunity. But you can achieve the same thing, or close to, with the vaccine without serious risks," Diamond said.
Diamond went on to say that a lot of the "negative side effects" associated with vaccines are miniscule compared to not getting them, such as the allergic reactions some people experience when getting them.
Especially in the case of chicken pox, which, if it's a severe case, could cause long-term potential health risks to those who contract it such as pneumonia and encephalitis. Why go through the risk of building a "natural" immunity when a vaccine will do the job?
"This is all focused on your child, but in reality this is a community issue. And so these people then go out into their world. They go to the library, they go to the grocery store, they go to schools where there’s likely to be an immunocompromised person. And then you are risking the health of not only your own child, but the public health," Diamond said.
9news shared the images of the texts online and reminded everyone about the serious health risks associated with chickenpox and urged parents not to attend these "pox playdates."
Would you ever try and get your kids signed up for this? Or would you rather listen to a medical professional and get them vaccinated?
I don't know about you, but I'd rather attend parties that have more to do with pizza and less to do with plague. (h/t wzzm)
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