Anti-vax groups in New York have intentionally exposed their kids to the measles at themed parties, which is a very, very, very bad idea
Yesterday, New York City officials declared a public health emergency in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn after 285 cases of the measles were confirmed, mostly in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where many of the children are not vaccinated against the disease. During the press conference, the officials also confirmed multiple reports of “measles parties,” where the parents of unvaccinated kids gather to intentionally expose their kids to the virus.
“Back in the day people were having parties to expose their kids to chickenpox,” New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said. “We live in a different world now. There are serious consequences to that.”
The serious consequences, of course, include permanent hearing loss, brain damage, and death.
“As a doctor, a public health practitioner, and a mom I must warn you that exposing your unvaccinated child to measles is very dangerous and it could even be deadly,” said Deputy Mayor Herminia Palacio. “We urge everyone to avoid this practice.”
Exposure parties were more popular in the days before we had vaccines for illnesses like the measles and chicken pox. The thinking at the time was that kids could “get the illness over with” since it’s rare to get the disease twice – and with chicken pox, the disease can be much more serious if you contract it as an adult.
The problem with these parties? While some kids only get a mild case, others can catch a severe one, landing them in the hospital or worse.
Now that the anti-vaccine movement is growing, thanks in large part to the dumb echo chamber of the internet, exposure parties are also regaining popularity, even though they can literally kill kids. Just last month, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin admitted that he intentionally exposed all nine of his kids to the chicken pox through a “party” rather than vaccinate them. And now, in places like New York, parents are choosing this super risky road to immunity over two simple, safe shots.
“Parents need to know that the measles can be serious,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said in 2015, after a measles party was reported in California. “Many children just have a mild illness, but it can result in pneumonia, dehydration, or even Encephalitis or death. I would hate for you to expose your child and end up with one of those outcomes. So we really strongly want parents to know that the measles vaccine is safe and effective and it’s the best way to protect your child against this disease.”
Measles is highly, highly contagious – a person with the measles can infect 90 percent of the unvaccinated people they come into contact with. It was considered eradicated in the United States two decades ago, thanks to the population creating “herd immunity,” but outbreaks have been plaguing North America in recent years as rumors and myths spread online about vaccines causing long-term health issues and death.
The reason for the most recent parties is pretty scary: parents would rather their kids become immune through getting the disease than through the shots.
“I can’t speak to what parents are thinking about these parties,” Barbot said. “What I anticipate, though, is that they are using it as an opportunity to then be able to provide serologic proof that their children are immune to measles and can get back to school without having to be vaccinated.”
The most recent outbreak in New York City, which has occurred largely in children under the age of 18, has already led to 21 hospitalizations and landed five people in the ICU fighting for their lives. In response to the outbreak, New York had ordered that anyone living in certain zip codes without a vaccine could be fined $1,000 for not getting the shots, and that any children without the immunization are barred from attending school.