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"Playing chicken: Some parents want children to catch chicken pox"

Vancouver Sun

Source: Vancouver Sun

Published: 07 Nov 2021

Category: Other

Rating: (2½ stars)

what they said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

Almost every adult in Canada had the chicken pox as a kid. Many still bear small scars from where they picked at one of the itchy little lesions associated with the disease.

The B.C. Ministry of Health hopes to virtually eradicate chicken pox in this generation of kids through a universal chicken-pox vaccination program. Parents are encouraged to get their kids vaccinated when they turn a year old; within a couple of years, the ministry hopes to have vaccinated all kids by kindergarten.

Laura Dobbs has chosen an alternate route. She plans to expose her two-year-old son Henry Korteling to another child who has chicken pox, so that he will catch it naturally.

"I haven't vaccinated him at all, so I definitely wouldn't vaccinate him against chicken pox," says Dobbs, who lives in Victoria....

The original article can be found at:

how did it rate? (more information)

Criteria Rating
Total Score 5 of 10
Availability of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Novelty of Treatment Satisfactory (?)
Disease Mongering Satisfactory (?)
Treatment Options Satisfactory (?)
Costs of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Evidence Not Satisfactory (?)
Quantification of Benefits of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Harms of Treatment Not Satisfactory (?)
Sources of Information Satisfactory (?)
Relies on Press Release Not Applicable
Quantification of harms of treatment Not Satisfactory (?)

what we said (Hover the mouse cursor over underlined words for more info)

This is an entertaining story about a controversial issue-whether or not to immunize children for chicken pox, or to try to expose your child naturally to chicken pox at a "chicken-pox party". The article presents two opposing views, one an official from a local health authority 'aghast' that parents would want to expose their children to chicken pox and another, a mother and a traditional Chinese doctor who believe natural exposure to chicken pox is the proper thing to do. This kind of balanced story is engaging, but would have benefited from better reporting of the evidence, and a quantification of benefits and harms related to chicken pox vaccination.

While the health official reports that children may experience "very, very, very serious consequences, including invasive group A streptococcal infection, the so-called flesh-eating disease" related to chicken pox, the problem lies in the evidence of prevalence, in other words, we have no idea how often these rare but serious complications can be reduced by the vaccine. If chicken pox is a risk factor for 'flesh-eating disease' it is not helpful to know that it increases a persons' risk "60 times over the background rate" without knowing what the background rate is to start with. The death rate associated with chicken pox is said to be 1 in 100,000 yet what would make this number more meaningful to the reader is to know, how much the vaccine reduced those serious adverse effects related to chicken pox and what rates of harm are related to the vaccine.

It would also be helpful to know long an immunity is provided by a chicken pox vaccine compared to having chicken pox naturally. While it is not helpful that the public health official uses emotive language to describe the risk of chicken pox complications, it is equally unhelpful that the Chinese doctor blames many health conditions nowadays to childhood vaccines, an assertion that deserves better evidence to support.

public forum

(27 Nov 2021) Mike Poholka writes,

"I agree with MediaDoctor's evaluation of the article. It is certainly unhelpful to report on the opinions of a those opposed to vaccination, while providing zero evidence supporting their view. As a reader, I am left to guess what the reporter's motivation was. Did he place so much blind faith in these opinions, that he felt no supporting evidence was required? Or has he inserted their baseless assertions into his article as a way of showing their opinions as ludicrous, without actually saying so?

Unfortunately, this poor quality of reporting, requiring no evidence, only "opinions", is widespread in our Canadian media, making it almost pointless to bother reading the newspaper. Thank you MediaDoctor for monitoring and commenting on the reporting that goes on."
(this comment has been moderated)

Media Doctor response,

"One of our goals is to try to ensure 'opinions' are supported by reference to good quality evidence. Another goal is to try to collect evidence on how widespread such reporting is. Thank you for your comments."

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