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Governor Says He Exposed His Kids to Chickenpox

Bevin says government shouldn't 'force' vaccinations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 21, 2019 1:25 AM CDT
This Feb. 7, 2019, file photo shows Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin delivering the State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the state legislature at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky.   (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

(Newser) – Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin says he deliberately exposed his children to chickenpox so they would catch the highly contagious disease and become immune. During an interview on Bowling Green radio station WKCT, Bevin said his children were "miserable for a few days" after contracting chickenpox but "they all turned out fine." "Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox," the Republican said. "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." Bevin and his wife, Glenna, have nine children, four adopted. They were all born after the chickenpox vaccine became available in 1995 and so-called "pox parties" became rare.

Public health authorities strongly discourage the practice of deliberately exposing children to chickenpox. It's "not an example for any of us," Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Nashville's Vanderbilt University Medical Center tells the AP. "We should vaccinate all our children. It's a great triumph of public health in the United States. Let's not take a step backward." Bevin said parents worried about chickenpox should have their children vaccinated. But he suggested that the government shouldn't mandate the vaccination. "In many instances, those vaccinations make great sense," he said. "But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise." Kentucky requires that children entering kindergarten be vaccinated for chickenpox, but parents may seek religious exemptions or provide proof that a child already had the disease.

(Read more chickenpox stories.)

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