• Kentucky high schooler who sued for right to not vaccinate contracts chickenpox

    By: Ann Smajstrla, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:
    WALTON, Ky. -

    A Kentucky high school student who refused to get vaccinated against chickenpox, and took the state to court to defend his choice, has come down with the illness, his lawyer confirmed.

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    Jerome Kunkel, 18, began showing chickenpox symptoms last week and hopes to recover by next week, said lawyer Christopher Wiest.

    Kunkel cited religious beliefs when he refused to get a chickenpox vaccination amid an outbreak at his school, Assumption Academy in Walton, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The school is affiliated with the Society of St. Pius X, a conservative branch of Roman Catholicism that rejects Vatican II reforms.

    Some Catholics oppose the chickenpox vaccination because it was developed in the 1960s from cell lines of two aborted fetuses, NBC News reported.

    As the chickenpox spread at Assumption Academy and its elementary school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School, the local health department restricted nonvaccinated and nonimmune students to prevent the spread. Affected students were first restricted from extracurricular activities, the Enquirer reported. Then, on March 14, they were ordered to stay home from school until at least 21 days after the last case.

    Kunkel sued in Boone County Circuit Court, claiming the order discriminated against his religious beliefs. Judge James R. Schrand ruled against Kunkel.

    Since Kunkel now has chickenpox, he’s considered immune to it. He hasn’t been to class since March 15, but hopes to return soon, Wiest said.

    "The ban was stupid," Wiest said. "He could have contracted this in March and been back to school by now."

    State health officials have criticized Wiest, saying he is "downplaying the dangers of the chickenpox."

    "Encouraging the spread of an acute infection disease in a community demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and safety of friends, family, neighbors and unsuspecting members of the general public," the Northern Kentucky Health Department said in a statement.

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