In 1995, the vaccine for chickenpox became widely available, effectively halting any major outbreak of the virus for decades afterward. Now, however, with many vaccine-skeptical parents choosing not to vaccinate their children based on pseudo-scientific studies that have been many times disproven, children in the U.S. are experiencing an uptick in vulnerability to many diseases that we defeated decades ago.
For instance, 36 students at Asheville Waldorf School in Asheville, North Carolina, have contracted the malady, making this the state’s worst chickenpox outbreak since 1995. The school is located in Buncombe County, considered an “anti-vaxxer hot spot” where a large number of parents cite “religious exemptions” to get their child out of receiving vaccinations.
— Mims Yamaguchi 😸 (@MimsyYamaguchi) November 20, 2018
At Asheville Waldorf, 110 of the 152 students opted out of vaccinations. Jennifer Mullendore, the medical director of the County’s Health and Human Services, knew an outbreak like this was only a matter of time:
“The county leads the state in religious exemptions to required vaccines. We’ve talked about how we are a ticking time bomb for vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks … and this [chickenpox] outbreak shows that.”
Too bad children have to suffer the poor choice of their parents.
— My Info Ingrid Bell (@MyInfoIngridBe2) November 21, 2018
Every state in the U.S. requires children to be vaccinated for certain diseases to gain entry to public schools and daycares. However, these requirements can be lifted for reasons medical, religious, or philosophical.
Many families don't believe in vaccinations anymore. Its scary. But what surprises me, don't you have to have children vaccinations to go to school?
— True Patriot 🇺🇸 (@jodie_Norman17) November 20, 2018
Some children have medical conditions that would make vaccination dangerous to them. Obviously, these children should not receive a vaccination but ultimately pose no threat as long as enough children in the surrounding population are still being vaccinated.
Not if you have a religious exemption.
— Dawn Kubie (@JulyJane) November 20, 2018
However, according to North Carolina law, if “the bona fide religious beliefs of an adult or the parent, guardian or person in loco parentis of a child are contrary to the immunization requirements,” the parent can simply send a letter to the school and send their children in without any vaccinations. Last year at Asheville Waldorf, 68% of kindergarteners opted out of one or more vaccines. This creates a dangerous vulnerability to the relevant diseases.
Fine if parents don’t want to vaccinate their kids, but then don’t allow them to be in public places to infect all others. Their choices could end up killing people, like senior citizens. #IgnorantParents
— Piper (@I_Miss_Obama) November 21, 2018
Chickenpox is highly contagious and, though most cases won’t cause any major problems, can result in serious complications for at-risk individuals like those who are immunocompromised, infants, and pregnant women. Some experts believe outbreaks like those in Asheville are most dangerous because the children “can spread it to siblings who are too young to be vaccinated or older relatives who are at greater risk of complications.”
Chicken pox isnt deadly to children, but can be for adults. Hopefully, they will not come in contact with any adult, who hasnt had them, or has a weak immune system.
— Da'Velle (@willingfollower) November 20, 2018
Twitter was incredibly unhappy with the parents who allowed this outbreak to thrive.
Magic doesn't cure disease, no matter how badly you want it to.
— Bruce Le Croom (@Backroom06) November 19, 2018
Child neglect and endangerment.
— Uli Gisela (@Uli_ausCalmbach) November 19, 2018
The kids suffer, unfortunately, for their parents' misguided beliefs.
— Suburban Chicken (@SuburbanChicken) November 20, 2018
Thoughts and prayers for the kids. Actually, thinking and praying that they should be removed form their wacky parents care and vaccinated for polio, measles, mumps, rubella, etc under care of Childrens' Aid before they die.
— Dennis McLaughlin (@dmclaughlin67) November 20, 2018
health illiteracy in the USA in 2018. because people think they are too smart!
— xrijlov (@xrijlov) November 21, 2018
Remember later in life…they may get shingles…
— TRUTH&JUSTICE (@OMETA16) November 21, 2018
when will these people get it through their heads that viruses don't give a shit about religious beliefs?! 🙄
— JAS&TenResist (@JAS_Ten_Resist) November 21, 2018
Though the number of chickenpox outbreaks has been minuscule since the vaccine arrived on the scene, Mullendore notes that a community with “high rates of unvaccinated people” will always be at risk:
“We encourage everyone to get their children, and themselves, vaccinated to prevent illness and the spread of disease to others in the community who are relying on those of us who can get vaccinated to protect them.”