Despite the fact that a vaccine for chickenpox has been widely available to families for over two decades, one school in North Carolina is seeing a rash of cases of the virus thanks to the heavily anti-vaxx population. According to a press release, 36 cases of chicken pox have been reported among students at Asheville Waldorf School in Asheville, North Carolina.
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, 110 of Asheville Waldorf's 152 students who range in age from kindergarten to grade six have not received the varicella, or chickenpox, vaccine, thanks to a rising rate of parents who have claimed religious exemption from vaccinations.
“When we first became aware of the outbreak, the most recent data we have is from last school year and we recognized, just within the kindergarten class, last year’s kindergarten class, 68 percent of children had an exemption to some, to at least one required vaccine,” Dr. Jennifer Mullendore of Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “I would say based on this outbreak and data we found, it appears the chicken pox vaccine was one of the more commonly exempted vaccines for this school.”
While many consider chickenpox to be a fairly harmless virus, Mullendore told the Asheville Citizen-Times that chickenpox can definitely be serious and this outbreak is a cause for concern.
"People don't think it's a serious disease, and for the majority of people it's not. But it's not that way for everybody," Mullendore said, before adding that between two three children out of 1000 who are infected with the virus will require hospitalization. "To me, that's not a mild disease, and if you're the parent of one of those children, you probably don't think so either," Mullendore added.
While North Carolina law does stipulate that children must have a full range of vaccinations to attend school, exemptions are allowed on the basis of medical and religious grounds. Exemptions on the basis of medical grounds require written authorization from a licensed physician, while exemptions on the basis of "bonafide religious beliefs" only require a written statement about those beliefs.
Even the CDC advises having everyone in a household vaccinated against the chickenpox, adding that the virus, while mild for many, can be serious and sometimes even cause death for babies too young to receive the vaccine, pregnant women and those who have a weakened or compromised immune system.
Mullendore has one message for the community and for people everywhere when it comes to keeping your family safe and healthy from the chickenpox vaccine, and that's to get vaccinated.
“We want to be clear: vaccination is the best protection from chickenpox. Two doses of varicella vaccine can offer significant protection against childhood chickenpox and shingles as an adult. When we see high numbers of unimmunized children and adults, we know that an illness like chickenpox can spread easily throughout the community- into our playgrounds, grocery stores, and sports teams."