Field of Science

The antivax women who mail pox: Who are they?

The latest from the world of antivax has gone a step beyond the infamous pox parties, in which people gather around person infected with chicken pox and purposely infect their children. The most recent--and illegal--move among this population is to send pox-infected items, such as lollipops, saliva, and clothing, through the mail. This is, as one person has noted on a Facebook page for people seeking to do it, a federal offense. It is bioterrorism of the most mindless, insane kind, one with no ill-intended target. One in which a plain-looking envelope could be a vector for illness across the landscape, and not only chicken pox. It seems that some people on the page also were seeking measles, mumps, and rubella by mail.

Who are these members of our society who are having the chicken pox parties, some of whom send pox-infected items through the mail? As I noted, they have a Facebook page. The page is now private, but the list of page members is still accessible, as are many of the Facebook profiles of the people on it. (ETA: The video report from CBS5 News available here shows some actual shots of the Facebook page. What they say is astonishing. They also interview women who are guilty of having done this).

Who are they? This small, self-selected population of extremists offers an excellent opportunity to try to figure that out. There are 149 147 154 of them (it dropped by two as I was writing this, then went up again). Based on names, only two are men, David and Michael. Their Facebook profiles, which are public, don't indicate what they do for a living. 

But the remainder are women. First, the group has Admins. They are three women, Dani, whose work involves photographing children; Evangeline, who appears to have scrubbed her Facebook profile; and Caitlin, a waitress at a diner in Illinois. Information about them is easy to find, as was their admin status for this page.

Then there are the page members. Angel is a nursing student. Elizabeth is an intactivist. Adelene is a member of the antivax Canary Party. Some are Christian Republicans, some are libertarians. Some are avowed atheists, others crunchy granola moms, at least one is a pagan. Only a handful of them appear to be familiar with Facebook privacy settings to some extent--although even their walls are still available--and there is still Google of course, which allowed me to determine that Gwendolyn may be a mental health advocate and poet or a writer and editor. Some like--as in Like--Pizza Hut. Many are into baby wearing and co-sleeping. Most of these women appear to be married to men, and at least one is married to a woman.

Stacie is a nanny. Carolyn specializes in birth photography. Sharalyn was an RN but now works at a publisher. Katie is a breastfeeding activist. Elizabeth and Tammy are pharmacy techs. Jennifer is a Navy wife who does not like vaccinations but is "pro-foreskin." Caitlin is a waitress. Melissa works at a hotel/resort. Monica works at a travel center. Michelle is a math teacher. 

They are from all over the United States--Kansas, Wisconsin, California, Delaware, Florida, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Pennsylvania. 

It's a hugely disparate group in terms of standard measures of belief and behavior, these people who "like" the idea of sending contagion through the U.S. mail. Many of them work in public-contact professions, serving food, administering medications and healthcare. Some work directly with families of small children. They solicit or are interested in soliciting an infectious agent through the mail or in purposely exposing themselves and their children to chicken pox, and they work in healthcare, with the public, in teaching, with children. This is disgraceful and unethical...and illegal.

What is their demographic? Almost all appear to be mothers of young children. Very few list education beyond high school on their Facebook pages. They almost all appear to be non-Hispanic Caucasian, as the U.S. Census would say. Young, white, female, high-school education, mothers of young children. I can't speak specifically to socioeconomic status, as Facebook doesn't elicit that information, but most seem to fall into the middle class.

Not one of them, by inference, seems to have considered the repercussions of this behavior. Why would they? They cannot or refuse to grasp or care about the repercussions--personal and societal--of choosing not to vaccinate, so why would they care if their contagion-packed envelope of pox fell into the wrong hands, were misdelivered and opened by someone other than the intended recipient, shed virus particles all over other people's mail? 

The level of insouciance here as a trump to common sense, the willingness to endanger total strangers for the sake of a self-righteous and selfish stance...these factors cross religion, politics, and profession for these women. This combination of traits, something I've thought of as the Me! Mine! Mommy! phenotype, appears to be the common thread among them, the trait that makes them susceptible to and willing to believe the antivax propaganda that crusaders and snake oil peddlers are selling. 

So, does this Facebook group represent the demographic of the antivax movement? White, young, middle-class mothers with a high-school education, an overdeveloped sense of self righteousness and the importance of Self, and an underdeveloped common sense or community sense? Take out "middle class," and I've just described the queen of the movement, Jenny McCarthy. Do they see themselves in her? And if it's true, what--if anything--can we do with that information?
ETA: Thanks to a commenter below, I bethought me to look at Facebook and around the Web for more information and links about pox parties. Here's a sampling:


  1. I am wondering if the police or FBI are taking any interest in this. These people are putting not only themselves and their children at risk, but also everyone in the chain that handles the mail, not to mention potential cross-contamination if packages are not sealed properly or if their seal breaks. Many unintended recipients of the bacteria/viruses may be particularly susceptible to infection.

    I am only left to wonder, what the hell are they thinking? And the ones working public health are a f*ing disgrace!

  2. Do they even realize how risky this is for the children they refuse to vaccinate? Ridiculous. Add child endangerment to the list.

  3. My mother almost lost her eyesight to shingles when oldest got chicken pox. A few years later, my other girl got pox triggering shingles outbreak that caused the poor girl to need four cosmetic surgeries on her face to cover the scars. Back then, we couldn't help it, but now we can. My younger children are vaccinated. This kind of thoughtlessness chills me.

  4. Angel runs a page called 'Proud Parents of Unvaccinated Children'.

    She had her 'minions' attack and killed two of my pages!

    I checked her out - she describes herself as a 'sanguine vampire'.


  5. Wow. Thank you for this. Now I only wish I had their addresses or at least the block they live on so I can make absolutely sure that I never encounter them. What morons. You know what, though, the tide is turning. Pro-vax moms like me are going to turn "vampire" on their asses, and already have.

  6. Don't these people fact check *anything*? The distortions on anti-vax sites are so blatant it would be funny if their victims weren't defenseless children and all too often not their own children.

    For instance, an on-going CDC survey of immunization coverage is being portrayed as harassment designed to force anti-vaxers into getting their kids vaccinated. Huh? It's a freakin survey. You know, those things used by scientists, designed to be as unbiased as they can make them, with randomly chosen participants, how is that harassment?

    The stupidity of these folks just leaves me speechless sometimes.

  7. My children have a medical exemption to vaccines..what do parents like me do to get them immunity from these diseases other than pox parties? Honestly curious.

  8. Regardless of what these parents are doing, isn't this kinda a invasion of their privacy?

  9. @anonymous 1: Can't you just wait to see if your children simply come down with chicken pox the usual way?

    @anonymous 2: I used no last names and no links to profiles (which I assume they voluntarily created themselves and for which they have the option of setting specific privacy settings), so nope, not even kinda. Do you think it's an invasion of other people's health for them to engage in these practices?

  10. I can tell you 100% that not everyone in that group agrees with mailing stuff.

  11. I can also tell you 100% that this article is a piece of shit, and in that (no longer there) group, it was actually FROWNED upon to mail stuff.

  12. That's so great that so many of the people in a group seeking to purposely infect children with a viral illness that has long-term sequelae instead of vaccinating would actually FROWN upon sending virus through the mail. I mean, there was FROWNING! The video I watched showed no evidence of frowning but considerable encouragement and tips. But gee, since there was FROWNING, I guess everything is OK now.

  13. beings the group and the page were run by 2 different people, you should learn your facts FIRST.

  14. The name of either tells the story. That's a fact.

  15. And you (or related Anonymous--ah, the bravery) are the one who noted that in the *group*--which is what this post refers to--it was *frowned* upon. And that not 100% of the *group* was into mailing pox. That also is a fact. At any rate, you seem upset. Perhaps you are personally involved?

  16. Or perhaps I am tired of reading CRAP about anti-vaxxing moms everywhere I go?

  17. Love that the idiots are all about "Oh noes! Mah privacy!!" Because they know that they're idiots and dangers to the rest of us. And they are endangering their children, which makes them BAD PARENTS.

  18. And there's a lot of 'crap' about anti-vaxx moms, because well, they're full of crap.

  19. Anonymous #3:My children have a medical exemption to vaccines..what do parents like me do to get them immunity from these diseases other than pox parties? Honestly curious.

    Well, if they have a medical exemption to vaccines they might do worse with the diseases.

    Because my son had seizures as an infant he only had the DT vaccine, so he was not protected from pertussis. But he had the actual disease pertussis, he would have fared much worse than if he had the DTP (which was found later to not be implicated with seizures).

    The serious answer to your question is to make sure everyone who comes into contact with your children are immunized. You need to do what I did when my son was very young: ask about the vaccine status of the children he came into contact with. In addition to that, you need to encourage adults to get update their tetanus booster with Tdap and get their annual influenza vaccine.

    I hope the best for your children. Also, do check in the future if they can be vaccinated. My son was immunized for pertussis when he was 19 years old with a Tdap vaccination. He also gets an annual influenza vaccine (he developed a genetic heart condition that requires extra protection from disease).

  20. Ugh, too early with too little sleep: But he had the actual disease pertussis should be:

    But if he had had the actual disease pertussis...

  21. From one of your links:

    "I hope there will be more ...... So hard to find a chicken pox party.You don't hear that many kids get it the natural way anymore...."

    Same people are probably saying, "but vaccines don't work!"

  22. I don't know if this has been covered in the discussion or not:

    At what point do these parents quarantine their kids? Incubation is between 10 and 21 days and kids are contagious for 1-2 days before pox appear.

    So, somewhere between 8 and 20 days after exposure, the child will be contagious. And a danger to other children and people with compromised immune systems.

    Unless these parents quarantine their children starting from 8 days after exposure, they are "inviting" everyone they meet to a special "pox party". Nice, huh?

    Somehow I doubt these parents are keeping their kids at home for what might be 10 or 11 days before symptoms appear. That would mean either leaving the kid at home, or taking a lot of days off for the parent. Why inconvenience yourself when you can just wait and expose a bunch of other kids, family and strangers?

  23. That's a good question. I haven't seen it addressed. In addition to that quarantine, they also have to be out for 2 weeks following appearance of the rash, or that's what the rule was at my sons' preschool. We had one child there develop chicken pox. Before the vax, the entire school would probably have shut down, and there would have been rolling excess absences and teachers losing hours. Instead, not a single other child was infected, and no one missed school. The infected child was in my son's classroom. Thanks, vaccines!

  24. They only have a high-school education? Just when I was wondering if this nonsense was evidence of the low standards of college education...

    Maybe college is still worth something after all.

  25. Interestingly, the blog with pics is now "open to invited readers only"

    So, name and shame: these people condone deliberately infecting children with vaccine-preventable diseases sent through the post:

  26. I love how she mentions that a lot of them don't have a college diploma. Maybe she should mention most of them are between the ages of 18-23. With multiple kids.

    Also, one is married to a woman? Shows how much research she does. The only one who's profile says married to a woman, the woman is her best friend, and it only says that because her husband doesn't haev a facebook.

  27. I believe I did mention that most were young mothers. Let's see. Yes! There it is: "Almost all appear to be mothers of young children." And again! "Young, white, female, high-school education, mothers of young children." Oops, one more time: "White, young, middle-class mothers with a high-school education."

    The profile, as you note, says "Married to [woman's name]." I couldn't care less whether she is or not; the point was that there were only a few factors that the group had in common for the majority. If you feel like that's a great big "gotcha" for ya, since you clearly know the person in question, it's yours.

  28. @anarchic--Ah. They shut down the pics they'd so proudly posted? Either you have the courage of your convictions or you don't, right?

  29. I am a veterinarian and a mother. I see first hand at work what happens when people don't vaccinate their dogs and cats against preventable diseases. It's not pretty; it causes death and misery. My daughter was vaccinated. I am vaccinated; my pets are vaccinated.
    Purposely exposing an unvaccinated child to an infectious disease is child abuse.

  30. I'd like to see these people prosecuted for assault and conspiracy, not just for violating the biohazard laws. I'd also like to see them prosecuted for child abuse. They belong behind bars.


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