An unvaccinated teen who was banned from school during a chickenpox outbreak now has chickenpox himself, his lawyer says. Jerome Kunkel was not allowed to attend school for at least two weeks when 30 people came down with the virus. In April, he sued the health department because he was banned from school for refusing to get a vaccine.
Kunkel cited religious reasons for not getting vaccinated. “It’s derived from aborted fetal cells. And as a Catholic, we do not believe in abortion. We believe it is morally wrong and it would go against my conscience,” he told CBS News. (The Vatican has strongly condemned such vaccines but says they may be used “due to the necessity to provide for the good of one’s children and of the people who come in contact with the children.”)
The Northern Kentucky Health Department banned all unvaccinated students until the outbreak at Assumption Academy could be contained. Kunkel, a senior who plays on the school’s basketball team, sued the health department in the Boone County Circuit Court, because they wouldn’t let him play basketball, CBS affiliate WKYT reports.
Kunkel’s attorney, Christopher Wiest, claimed his client was discriminated against and “targeted” because of his religious beliefs. Last month, a judge ruled against the teen, and in favor of the Northern Kentucky Health Department.
On Tuesday, Wiest confirmed Kunkel now has chickenpox, WKYT’s sister station, WXIX in Cincinnati, reports. “He’s fine. He’s a little itchy,” Wiest said.
About 90 percent of students at the Catholic school have religious exemptions from vaccinations, according to WXIX. Two dozen other students who were banned during the chickenpox outbreak joined Kunkel’s lawsuit. Wiest said about half of his clients have come down with the chickenpox since they filed the case.
“I flat-out told the moms and dads the quickest path to resolving this is having them contract chickenpox,” Wiest told WXIX.
CBS News has reached out to Wiest and is awaiting response.
The governor of Kentucky recently admitted to exposing his nine children to the chickenpox so they would contract the virus and then become immune. So called chickenpox parties have been popping up across the U.S. for years. The CDC says the best way to become immune is by getting vaccinated.
The CDC recommends kids get a first dose of the vaccine at age 12 to 15 months and the second dose when they are 4 to 6 years old. The vaccine was first introduced in 1995, and health officials say chickenpox has declined 85 percent in the United States since 2006, when doctors began routinely recommending a second dose of the vaccine.
Most children recover from chickenpox after a few days, but the disease can lead to serious complications, especially in infants, adults, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. The CDC says complications can include pneumonia, inflammation of the brain, hemorrhaging, and bloodstream infections (sepsis).