Outrage grows at COVID 'pox parties'

As COVID case numbers explode across Australia, the chances of contracting the virus grow exponentially. But would you go to a ‘COVID party’ to deliberately get infected?

Reports are emerging from around the globe of individuals holding private gatherings with the specific purpose of infecting each other, and it seems Australia is no exception.

The idea is that since contracting the virus seems all but inevitable anyway, it’s better to be able to control the timing of when you catch it. But health experts are warning that those people are playing ‘Russian roulette’ with their lives.

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The Gold Coast Bulletin reported invitations to one such party began circulating on social media and the events were even promoted by some local businesses.

The concept of a transmission party is not new. Parents holding ‘chickenpox parties’ or ‘flu parties’ for children were popular before the varicella vaccine was introduced.

These types of parties were more common for diseases that didn’t yet have a vaccine, as a way of building herd immunity.

But health authorities were not impressed, slamming the parties as “reckless”.

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“The vast majority of Queenslanders are sensible enough to know what is appropriate, especially when COVID-19 is rife in our community,” a spokesperson said.

“We can’t make this any clearer: if you are sick – isolate and get tested. If you are a confirmed COVID-19 case or close contact, stay at home. This is not the time to be selfish and self-serving.”

But other experts have been more sympathetic to the idea of controlling the timing of a COVID-19 infection, but still advise that deliberately infecting yourself is not a good idea.

“I can understand the motivation,” says Professor Catherine Bennett, chair of epidemiology at Deakin University.

“You have an event coming up, you want to control the timing: I understand that’s why people want to do it.

“But you’re playing Russian roulette: it could be Delta you catch, and it could still be devastating to your plans. Every health professional will say if you can avoid infection, do.”

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Across Australia, more than 4600 people are in hospital with COVID and almost 400 of those are in intensive care.

While those numbers represent quite a low hospitalisation rate when coupled with daily case numbers in the tens of thousands, they are still high enough to put enormous pressure on the healthcare system.

Symptoms from the Omicron variant have proven to be less severe in most vaccinated patients, but the much more severe Delta variant is still present in the community.

On top of that, getting infected is not a guaranteed method of gaining future immunity. Studies have shown that while being infected with COVID can provide some level of antibody protection, it’s not guaranteed for everyone, and the level of protection is lower than that provided by vaccines.

Would you consider going to a COVID party? Should people be allowed to have them? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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