Chicken Pox by Mail?

I'm not going to pretend like I haven't over-analyzed and over-researched vaccines. I'm not going to pretend that I haven't cornered my doctor for a much longer period of time than she spends with her other patients about MMR, chicken pox, polio, etc. We had discussions, yes. Which are the most important? Which have the least side effects? Which is a dead vaccine? I read books: Dr Sears' The Vaccine Book the most helpful.

My son in fact, did NOT get the chicken pox vaccine, and when he was four he got an actual case of chicken pox from a few kids in his nursery school who HAD BEEN vaccinated. My doctor believed -- and still does -- in chicken pox parties. She felt the actual disease is more efficient than the actual vaccine and though she made sure Jake got polio, pertussis, MMR -- even during the height of the autism-MMR connection scare, which is no longer a scare at all. Chicken pox parties. Yes. She recommended it.

When Jake got chicken pox it was thankfully mild. She drew blood. He's got titers which means there was proof of the chicken pox in his system. That's all a school needs. Titers, yes, ma'am. We got it the good-old-fashioned way. And I was proud! Isn't that silly? I really was. Chicken pox. Who didn't get chicken pox in the 70s and 80s? I did! It was awful. And then it was over.

Now folks are joining closed Facebook groups to specifically send each other infected lollipops, saliva and/or articles of clothing to hold their own chicken pox parties. I'm so outraged by hearing this that I literally want to bang my head against the wall. Slate columnist KJ Dell'Antonia wrote this angry rant that puts it well:

Let's try this sentence on for size: "I just gave my kid a pre-licked lollipop sent to me by a stranger I met on the Internet!" I suspect the "outing" of this practice by the media will also mark its public end. I'm sure we're talking about a very, very small number of people here. But if chicken-pox-by-mail sounds like a good idea to you, then I'm going to have to abandon the polite conversation and bring out the verbal two-by-fours.

I am all for chicken pox parties. Elke hasn't gotten her chicken pox vaccine yet. But the stupidity of passing infected chicken pox lollipops through the mail is terrifying. In fact, it makes me propelled to vaccinate her, like, immediately. Do these parents remember the anthrax scare of 2001? When we thought the world was ending and one of the news anchors had traces of anthrax on his desk. That the Hamilton, New Jersey Post Office was shut down because of traces of ANTHRAX. Now a bunch of die-hards think it's a good idea to send a virus through the mail? This is not only illegal, but highly dangerous.

Dr. Wilbert Mason had this to say to the LA Times:

For starters, he said, sending chicken pox through the mail probably won't work, because the varicella virus needs cells to live in, and there probably would be very few cells in spit or on a used lollipop. "It's unlikely the virus would survive long enough," he said.

But more resilient types of infections -- dangerous ones -- could make it, including hepatitis B, group A strep, and staph germs.

There is a certain point as parents that you have to take a step back and weigh the risks. I'm not a fan of over-vaccinating. I make sure I space my vaccines out. I linger a bit when it comes to the biggies. But there's a certain point you have to say -- okay, I'm not going to take candy from a stranger and put my child at an even greater risk than she would have been in the first place.

This week: Chicken pox vaccine. December 1: Flu shot.

Hayley Krischer