Mar 21, 2019 04:58 PM EDT
"Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox," Bevin told Bowling Green radio station WKCT. "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."
Bevin said he doesn't believe vaccines should be mandated by the government. He followed that shocking admission of what sounds a lot like clear-cut mistreatment of children with a wonderfully stale anti-vaxxer diatribe about the fundamental need to keep the federal government out of the business of protecting public health.
"If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child," the governor said. "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."
But medical experts called Bevin's actions unsafe.
"We're no longer living in the 17th century," Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician and expert in vaccines and childhood diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "I really recommend to my parents that they vaccinate their children, that they do it in a timely manner, and they recognize they are doing the right thing for their children."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against intentionally exposing children to the disease -- including hosting chickenpox parties.
"Chickenpox can be serious and can lead to severe complications and death, even in healthy children," according to the CDC website.
In response to Bevin's comment, the Kentucky Democratic Party called on the Republican to state his position on vaccinations for hepatitis A, which has killed 44 people in the state, the paper reported.
"Kentucky is currently experiencing the worst outbreak of Hepatitis A in the country. It is a major public health risk at this point. The last thing we need is Governor Bevin suggesting that immunization is not important," KDP spokeswoman Marisa McNee told the paper in an email. "Governor Bevin should reassure the public that he supports the recommendation of the entire medical community with respect to controlling an outbreak of Hepatitis A, which is immunization."
The state requires children entering kindergarten to get vaccinated for chickenpox but parents can seek religious exemptions. Bevin's comments come as the Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church & Academy high school in Walton is suffering from 32 reported chickenpox cases.
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