FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – The Kentucky government, Matt Bevin, said in a radio interview that he had deliberately exposed his children to chickenpox so they could get the highly contagious disease and become immune during a Tuesday.
In an interview with radio station WKCT on Bowling Green, Bevin said his children were "a few days miserable" after completing chickenpox, but said, "Everyone was fine."
"Every single one of my kids had chickenpox," Bevin said in an interview. "They purposely got the chickenpox because we found a neighbor who had it, and I went there to make sure every one of my kids was affected and they got it ̵
Bevin and his wife Glenna have nine children, four children were adopted.
Public health authorities strongly discourage children from deliberately exposing to chickenpox, a medical expert said Wednesday.
"It's unfortunate and not an example of any of us," he told William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee.
"We should vaccinate all our children, it is a great public health triumph in the United States, let's not take a step back." he added in a telephone interview.
Bevin's office did not respond promptly on Wednesday to an email request for additional comments. Bevin is seeking a second term as governor at this year's nationwide Kentucky election.
The Republican governor said on Tuesday that parents worried about chickenpox should have their children vaccinated. However, he suggested that the government should not order the vaccine.
"Why do we force children to get them?" Bevin said in an interview. "If you are worried that your child will get chickenpox or whatever, then you are vaccinating your child … And in many cases, these vaccines make sense, but for some people and for some parents, they choose to for some reason something else."
Kentucky requires that children who go to kindergarten be vaccinated against chickenpox, but parents can apply for religious exceptions or provide evidence that a child is already suffering from the disease.
Bevin's comments followed reports this week about an outbreak of chickenpox at a Catholic school in Kentucky.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend two doses of chickenpox vaccine to children, adolescents, and adults who have never had chickenpox and have never been vaccinated, according to their website. Children are routinely recommended to receive the first dose at the age of 12 to 15 months and a second at the age of 4 to 6 years.
"What the governor and other like-minded people are unaware of is that there is potentially serious complication of chickenpox," said Schaffner.
Chickenpox complications can be bacterial infections, pneumonia and encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain, according to the CDC. Complications are not common in healthy people with the disease, but risk groups for complications due to a severe case of chickenpox can include infants, adolescents, pregnant women, and immunocompromised people.