SALT LAKE CITY — A Kentucky teenager who was banned from school for refusing his chickenpox vaccination because of religious beliefs now has the chickenpox, NBC News reports.
Jerome Kunkel, a student at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy, started showing symptoms of chickenpox last week, the boy’s lawyer told NBC News. He hopes to be recovered by next week.
Kunkel and his family said they don’t have any regrets.
"These are deeply held religious beliefs, they're sincerely held beliefs," family attorney Christopher Wiest said. "From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it."
According to NBC News, “Some ultraconservative Catholics oppose chickenpox vaccinations because it was developed in the 1960s from cell lines of two aborted fetuses.”
Back in March, the Northern Kentucky Health Department “barred students without proof of vaccination or immunity against the chickenpox virus” from attending class at the Assumption Academy, The Washington Post reports.
A judge agreed with the health department in April, according to BBC News.
Kunckel’s family filed a lawsuit against the health department, saying they opposed the vaccination because of their religious beliefs, according to The Washington Post.
The family said the health department’s decision “infringed upon their son’s First Amendment rights,” according to The Washington Post.
Wiest told The Washington Post the ban was unjustified. The school shares a building with the Our Lady of the Assumption Church, which has unvaccinated students attending mass even though they can’t attend classes specifically.
“This is a stupid ban that’s never going to work, and absolutely ridiculous in this context where they go to church upstairs every day together,” Wiest said. “We are not at all surprised, this is exactly what we told the court would happen. Over half my clients contracted chickenpox and had no complications, and now they have a lifetime immunity.”14 comments on this story
“While the tactic Wiest suggests may provide an individual with future immunity from chickenpox, this infected person can easily spread the virus to other, unsuspecting people, including those particularly vulnerable to this potentially life-threatening infection,” the statement read. “Encouraging the spread of an acute infectious disease in a community demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and safety of friends, family, neighbors, and unsuspecting members of the general public.”