Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin revealed on a local radio show that he purposefully exposed all nine of his children to chickenpox rather than vaccinate them against the virus.
“Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox. 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 Republican governor told WKCT, according to the Courier Journal.
Bevin’s nine children with wife Glenna are aged 5 to 16, his campaign website states.
Experts, however, warn that purposefully exposing children to the chickenpox is unsafe. Dr. Dennis Clements, the professor of pediatrics and global health at Duke University, claims that the vaccine against varicella (chickenpox) is safer than exposure, and helps prevent shingles in adulthood.
Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician and expert in vaccines and childhood diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota told Courier Journal that the practice of chicken pox parties is “just dangerous.”
“We’re no longer living in the 17th century,” Jacobson told the outlet. “I really recommend to my parents that they vaccinate their children, that they do it in a timely manner, and they recognize they are doing the right thing for their children.”
In Kentucky, varicella is one of the mandated vaccines for children entering kindergarten. However, parents may seek religious exemptions or provide medical proof their child has already had the disease.
“Why are we forcing kids to get it?” Bevin said in the radio interview about the chickenpox vaccine, which has been available to the public since 1995. “If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child… 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.”
Before the vaccine against the highly contagious viral infection was made available, chickenpox claimed the lives of as many as 100 adults and children a year. “It’s not just a risk your children are going to have. You’re putting other people in the community at risk because of your decision,” Jacobson said.
Previously, Gov. Bevin had garnered attention for partly blaming mass shootings on “zombies,” and recently calling children “soft” when schools in Kentucky were closed due to minus 25-degree temperatures, which could cause frostbite within 30 minutes.
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