Chicken Pox Lollipops

November 17th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

Some parents are choosing infected lollipops over traditional immunizations for kids.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

When I was a kid, lollipops were everywhere. I have a clear memory of being handed one even after a routine cleaning at the dentist. But over the years, high-sugar items have waned in popularity with the rise of general nutritional awareness….until now, that is. It seems the sugary treats are making a comeback – as immunizers.  

Parents seeking alternatives to traditional vaccines have begun ordering lollipops licked by children infected with chicken pox in an effort to build their children’s immunity without shots. The method has met significant resistance in the medical community, as most doctors continue to encourage vaccines for every child.

More pressing, authorities warn, is the fact that the infected pops are unregulated. As Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, posited to ABC News, “Can you imagine getting a package in the mail from this complete stranger that you know from Facebook because you joined a group, and say here, drink this purported spit from some other kid?” Similarly, a Gawker report pointed to a Facebook posting that offered, "a fresh batch of pox in Nashville […] available tomorrow, 50 dollars via PayPal."

Isaac Thomsen, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, told the Associated Press that shipping the infected items is “probably not an effective way to transmit [chicken pox.] It typically has to be inhaled.” Thomsen also warned that the lollipops could carry other, more dangerous viruses, like hepatitis.

The San Francisco Chronicle attributed the sudden rise in lolli-pox interest to the increasing number of parents concerned about traditional vaccines. “A 2009 survey found that about 11 percent of parents refuse at least one vaccine,” the story read. “Some parents also feel that there are now too many vaccines and that children’s immune systems are weakening because they’re no longer fighting off viruses such as the chicken pox. Their thinking is that getting a virus gives the system a workout and builds strength.” But why chicken pox, specifically? The Chronicle reported, “These parents might specifically skip the chicken pox vaccine and actively try to expose their children to the virus because they figure that they survived it as a child and everyone else they grew up with lived through it.”

But the Centers for Disease Control warned that the risks unquestionably outweigh the rewards. Before the vaccine for pox, there were reportedly more than 10,000 hospitalizations and 100-150 deaths from the seemingly benign virus every year.

What’s your take on traditional vs. alternative immunizations for your kids? Do you think the people behind the infected lollipops have a point? Sound off here.