Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said Tuesday that he deliberately exposed his children to chickenpox in an effort to make them immune to the disease rather than giving them vaccines.
“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 in an interview with the Courier-Journal.
The governor also expressed concerns with Kentucky’s current vaccine mandates. All kindergartners in Kentucky are required to be vaccinated for chickenpox before they enter school. As students progress through the system, they are required to get more vaccines.
“And I think, why are we forcing kids to get it?” Bevin said in the interview. “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.”
Bevin has nine children between the ages of 5 and 16 with his wife Linda Bevin.
The discussion over vaccinations has been at the forefront of U.S. discourse after outbreaks of diseases once considered under tight control have sprouted across the country and the globe.
This month, a New Hampshire man contracted measles after a trip abroad, being sent to the hospital after his arrival at Logan International Airport in Boston. Immigration facilities in Texas have seen nearly 200 cases of mumps among detainees since October of last year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 230 cases of measles have been reported in 12 states. New York, Washington, Texas, Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oregon, and now New Hampshire have seen cases of measles in 2019 alone.
The results of a Hill-HarrisX poll released last week show a majority of Americans believe in mandatory child vaccinations as well as a growing partisan divide with more conservatives and Republican officials expressing increased skepticism of the practice.