Science of Immunization Misrepresented by Kentucky Governor

On March 19, 2019, during an interview with Bowling Green radio station WKCT, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin stated that all nine of his children “got the chickenpox on purpose” instead of receiving the vaccine. The Governor appeared to suggest that vaccination is no more effective than exposing children to the chickenpox virus. That view is not, however, shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recommends that unvaccinated children not be purposely exposed to chickenpox as it can be serious and even life-threatening. According to the CDC, children should be given the chickenpox vaccine as that allows them to build immunity, without the risk of health complications. Vaccination also helps to build “herd immunity” (i.e., the indirect protection of unvaccinated people) by preventing the spread of the disease. Herd immunity has been scientifically proven to extend the benefits of vaccination beyond the directly targeted population, creating indirect protection for individuals who cannot be vaccinated, for example because they have weakened immune systems. Herd immunity has played a major role in eradicating small pox and protecting against the flu and pneumonia.