Anti-Vax Mom Gets Reported to CPS for Throwing 'Chickenpox Parties'

vaccineSo-called "chickenpox parties" (where unimmunized kids hang out with a child infected with chickenpox) have become a popular with anti-vaxxers in recent years, but the trend might be on its way out: Child Protective Services in Texas recently visited the home of a Texas mom for throwing these potentially dangerous get-togethers.


Amanda Witt sees nothing wrong with the "pox parties" she's been throwing; in fact, she feels so strongly about the benefits of "natural immunization" that she even moderates a Facebook group of several hundred other anti-vaccination parents -- a community Witt says is "scared" by the recent investigation. (Witt was reported to CPS by members of a pro-vaccine group overseas.) As she told WMAZ:

"I feel bullied and victimized. I’d like for my parental rights to be respected. I didn’t break the law. My children are well cared for and it is my choice."

Witt also said that "chickenpox parties aren't considered dangerous," and that it's not necessarily bad for kids to get sick -- it's only this generation, she argues, that has come to believe childhood illness must be prevented at all costs.
The thing is, she's wrong. Pretty much nobody ever has wanted their kid to get sick, but the chickenpox vaccine wasn't always around, so parents didn't always have a choice in the matter. And she's also wrong about chickenpox not being dangerous: While it is generally considered to be less of a threat than some of the other illnesses kids are routinely vaccinated against, like smallpox, there are still some potentially serious complications associated with chickenpox. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, chickenpox was to blame for 30,000 hospitalizations and 150 deaths every year before the vaccine was introduced. And Witt may not realize this, but if (God forbid) one of the kids at her chickenpox parties ever became seriously ill -- or even died! -- she could face criminal charges.
So while I do agree that individual parental rights should be respected, maybe it's not such a bad thing that CPS showed up on Witt's doorstep. Not because I think she's a bad parent -- I'm sure she truly believes she's doing the best thing for her children -- but people do need to understand how potentially hazardous chickenpox parties can be, and how much trouble they could be in if anything went wrong. I also completely understand what it's like to be nervous about the possible complications associated with vaccines. When my first baby was born 14 years ago at the height of the "vaccines cause autism" craze, I was worried about immunizing her, too -- until my pediatrician explained that while she never personally saw any child develop autism as a result of being vaccinated, she did see kids suffering in the hospital with diseases like whooping cough every year. Many of the illnesses we think of as extinct in this country are, in fact, not. In the end, I went with what seemed like the safest option: vaccinating my kids. And as parents, keeping our kids safe is the whole point, right?
Image via Sanofi Pasteur/Flickr
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