What You Need to Know: Matt Bevin

Kentucky governor says he exposed his nine kids to chickenpox on purpose

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin told an interviewer on a radio show Tuesday that he intentionally exposed his children to the chickenpox virus in the hopes they would catch the disease and become immune to it in the future.

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Appearing on Talk 104.1, Bevin said that all of his nine children had contracted the disease and that he had exposed the children on purpose. 

“Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox," Bevin said in the interview with the Bowling Green talk radio station. 

"They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it. They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.”

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Bevin also said that he did not believe parents should be forced to vaccinate their children against chickenpox. Kentucky has a mandatory vaccination law for children entering public schools. The chickenpox vaccination is one of those required. 

“And I think, why are we forcing kids to get it?" Bevin said of the chickenpox vaccine. "If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child. ... But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise. This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges against deliberately exposing children to the varicella-zoster virus – the chickenpox virus.

"Chickenpox can be serious and can lead to severe complications and death, even in healthy children," according to the CDC website.

Chickenpox, an infectious disease characterized by skin blisters and fever. It can be fatal in rare instances for those with certain complications, or for those who may otherwise be compromised. 

The CDC recommends two doses of the chickenpox vaccine. The vaccine, the CDC website says, is more than 90 percent effective at preventing chickenpox. 

“When you get vaccinated, you protect yourself and others in your family and community,” the website pointed out. “This protection is especially important for people who cannot get vaccinated, such as those with weakened immune systems, or pregnant women.”

Complications can include pneumonia, encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain – or bacterial infections, according to the CDC. Those complications are generally seen in infants, pregnant women or those with weakened immune systems, according to the website.

A chickenpox vaccine became available in 1995.

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