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Chickenpox Party … Would You?

On my mama’s 3rd Mother’s Day I woke up with an extra special surprise for her. It wasn’t wrapped and it wasn’t a vacation from daddy and I. Nope, I said, “Good morning” with a splattering of spots- the kind that itch and quarantine the family for a bit. I had chickenpox. If that doesn’t say, “Happy Mother’s Day!” what does?


This was back in the 80’s before a chickenpox vaccine was on the market so it was perfectly normal for families to cycle through the pox. I survived just fine – lots of oatmeal baths and pink calamine lotion. My two sisters had the chickenpox years later when they were in elementary school and I had the chance to be their nurse since I was immune. I won’t tell unearth all the details, but my mama took specific steps to make sure my sisters got chickenpox before they got too old. They both had moderate cases and are most likely immune too.

This chickenpox history leads me to my thoughts today.

I have two children and thus far, I’ve waived the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. One, I believe that in cases where natural immunity can be obtained, that’s always ideal and two, the potential side effects of the varicella vaccine are definitely worrisome. Plus, the vaccine does not guarantee immunity so in some cases kiddos will deal with side effects from the vaccine and still encounter the disease they hoped to avoid. Weighing all the options I think my preference is that my daughter and son will contract chickenpox as children, I’ll nurse them through it and they’ll benefit from lifelong immunity.

The problem is, since the vaccine was added to the list of recommended shots in 1995 it has become increasingly harder to find a case of chickenpox to consider exposing my children to. I’ve heard of chickenpox parties – simple gatherings where children with chickenpox play and share snacks with children who don’t – but haven’t been invited to party with the pox as of yet.

From what I’ve researched the older you are when fighting chickenpox the more awful it is, so I’m thinking that it would be best to have chickenpox run its’ course in our family sometime during the elementary school years. If my children reach high school or adulthood without experiencing chickenpox I’ll reconsider this vaccine.

Until then, I’m holding my breathe for a chickenpox party and hoping I’m not the only one out there who is keen on the idea. Then again, will I chicken out if the opportunity actually arises? I’m not sure! Hence all my research and the launch of this discussion today. So, tell me your chickenpox story – have you had it? Have your kids? Would you go to or host a chickenpox party?

Now, here’s my little disclaimer that no one in our immediate family is considered to have a weakened immunity system and therefore should weather chickenpox without any complications. Of course, with any disease there are unknowns, but the same goes for vaccinations, so it’s up to each family to determine their risk/benefits of each. In our case, the negative and short term effects of childhood chickenpox seem much less than the potential harm of the vaccine and misery of the shingles epidemic that has spiked since the chickenpox vaccine debuted. It isn’t my desire or hope to make my children sick, as their mama it’s my job to protect and care for them. That’s what makes the many layers of chickenpox exposure now and in the future such a crucial decision. I am not an expert on chickenpox or vaccinations, I’m just a parent who has researched, asked questions of professionals and have come to my own conclusion on what is best for my family at this time. My views do not represent those of the rest of the Baby Gizmo team.


National Vaccine Information Center

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Chickepox Party – RSVP?

Should Your Child Attend a Chickenpox Party?

Chickenpox Party: Developing Natural Varicella Immunity

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Megan Wolfe

Monday 9th of February 2015

My husband and I have two partially vaxxed and two non-vaxxed children. We only started to research vaccines when my son had seizures and brain swelling following four vaccines and the oral rotavirus. We have scoured the manufacturers' research and have come to the decision that real immunity and less risk is the way to go. Like us prior to my son's adverse reaction we did not research--just took our peds' advice. Why shouldn't we? Now we know much more and the facts and science behind today's vaccines tell us we're better off on our own. For example, the MMR vaccine has caused more deaths (over 100) than the actual measles in the last ten years( zero)! Yikes! You actually have a better chance of being killed by ants than the measles. I'm trying to say that when you put it in to perspective not vaccinating your kids is hardly causing our society to fall gravely ill. In fact, in populations that are highly vaccinated against MMR (95-99%) you'll find a higher percentage of those diseases. As a parent who wants to protect my kids I find that statistic frustrating. You know what, I don't like that some vaccines contain aborted fetus cells too. How many parents don't know that? And what about the cancer causing cells (SV40)? There are too many reasons for us not to vaccinate that I could read a book on the subject. Ugh, this is just too exhausting to even think about.


Thursday 5th of December 2013

Gretchen, Some quick points: 1) If you are worried about the chicken pox vaccine causing a shingles epidemic, you should get your children the vaccine. Shingles rates among vaccinated children "were lower in the cohort of vaccinated children than in unvaccinated children during the prevaccine era" (PMID: 23545380) 2) Can you imagine what a warning label for a chicken pox party would look like? Strokes, thousands of hospitalizations a year, tens of deaths . . . 3) Despite its impressive sounding name, if you think the National Vaccine Information Center is a source that is "most informative", I think you need to do some more research.


Tuesday 3rd of December 2013

There are some important facts you are missing.

If you vaccinate your kids and they gain immunity from the vaccine rather than the bug, they will never have to suffer shingles later in life. This is a HUGE benefit to the vaccine. Shingles is basically chicken pox virus that has been dormant in your body, suddenly attacking again and it is very very nasty. There is now a shingles vaccine, but why wait for that when you can vaccine your kids now and avoid ever having to worry about it at all.

Further, by not vaccinating, you play against herd immunity, so that young or ill kids who can't have the vaccine or it is less effective in, are at great risk. This just seems selfish to me.

My son caught chicken pox at 9 months (he was too young to vaccinate, we tried once we learned of a case he had been exposed to) and it was a miserable experience for everyone. The thing that makes me feel worst though about him having had the chicken pox is that later in life he will be at risk for shingles which is totally preventable.

And last, perhaps most concerning to me, you allude to risks of the vaccine, can you point us to some scientific literature supporting this claim?

This type of post is typical of the anti-vaccination scare mongering and why we have suddenly got higher levels of childhood diseases (measles, whooping cough) than in years.

Gretchen Bossio

Thursday 5th of December 2013

Hi Sarah - thank so much for chiming in! First off, I'm so sorry your son suffered from chicken pox so early in life. My heart skips a beat every time I hear of a baby coming down with a disease like chicken pox. And when illness strikes, mama carries much of the pain and suffering burden :(

To address a few of your points ... vaccination does not equate immunity. I found this information from the National Vaccine Information Center ( most informative, and they quote CDC statistics. It also addresses shingles and actually sites a 2002 study that worries that mass chicken pox vaccination actually might spur a shingles epidemic. Since we can't see into the future, it definitely seems like the natural chicken pox/vaccination/shingles outcome is unknown.

Discussions about herd immunity provoke a lot of emotion so I won't go too deep here. For me, I'm making health decisions for my children and their needs. Yes, this can be perceived as being selfish, but it's my primary responsibility to care for them. Of course, when we're ill I keep my kids home and do my best to minimize exposure to at risk groups.

All vaccines have risks - they're drugs. Some risks are minor - like fever and injection site discomfort, others are more severe like seizures or allergic reaction. You never know how your child will respond. The vaccine insert goes into quite a bit of detail about reported side effects and clinical trial results. Whether you choose to vaccinate or not, it's super important to read this information from the durg distributor before your move forward. Here is the Varivax insert from Merck:

Again, thanks for your input and questions! It's respectful conversations like this that allow us all to learn, grow as parents and in the end, make the best decision for our children.


Monday 2nd of December 2013

When I was growing up, it wasn't uncommon for two mothers talking on the phone and having a conversation similar to this: "You think your daughter has the chicken pox? Can I send my kids over?" This was super duper common (where I grew up, anyways). So would I send my kids over to a neighbor's house to catch the chicken pox? Yes, as long as my youngest wasn't a baby still. If you want to call this a "party," then I'm ok with that. I like the idea of catching the chicken pox naturally.


Monday 2nd of December 2013

Totally would have for each of my kids when I had the opportunity to had I not been pregnant!! Would much rather my kids get them when they're little... :)

Gretchen Bossio

Thursday 5th of December 2013

Yes! Definitely avoid the pox when pregnant!

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