On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in New York City due to the ongoing measles outbreak. And while his announcement made vaccinations mandatory for all children, some anti-vaxx parents have a different—and much riskier—method for keeping their kids safe: measles parties.
“Back in the day people were having parties to expose their kids to chickenpox,” NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said during a press conference on Tuesday. “We live in a different world now… there are serious consequences to that.”
At these events, unvaccinated children are intentionally exposed to the measles virus under the assumption that after they’re infected once, they’ll be immune to the disease in the future. Even Kentucky governor Matt Bevin confessed that he had purposefully infected his own kids with chickenpox at one such party.
However, experts warn that not only are measles parties not always effective but they’re also incredibly dangerous. “There is no way to tell in advance how severe your child’s symptoms will be. So it is not worth taking the chance of exposing your child to someone with the disease,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns on its website, adding that “the best way to protect infants and children is to get them vaccinated.”
And these parties are becoming more a problem in NYC (specifically in the Brooklyn borough), where there have now been 285 confirmed cases of measles since October compared to just two cases in all of 2017. Which is why Mayor de Blasio has required all children ages six months and older to receive the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so people are spreading different viewpoints but some of them are clearly false and not backed up by science,” De Blasio said in the same press conference. “The science consistently proves that this vaccine is safe and necessary.”