A teenager sued after being banned from school for not having the chickenpox vaccination, but he’s now come down with the contagious disease.
Jerome Kunkel, from Kentucky, US, was banned from completing his final term at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy as a result of a chickenpox outbreak which, at the time, had affected 32 people.
The 18-year-old refused to vaccinate against the disease on religious grounds.
Kunkel’s father Bill told NBC affiliate WLWT:
I don’t believe in that vaccine at all and they are trying to push it on us.
The Northern Kentucky Health Department said students who hadn’t been vaccinated needed to stay out of the school until three weeks after the onset of a chicken pox rash on the last sick student or teacher, but despite the fact he’d be putting himself at risk if he went into school, in April Kunkel sued the health department over the ban.
Jerome Kunkle, 18, on the stand in court hearing over family’s stance against chickenpox vaccine vs NKY Health Dept ban. Says the vaccine is against his religious beliefs. @WLWT pic.twitter.com/yaFxZatAif
— Natalie Clark WLWT (@NatalieClarkTV) April 1, 2019
The fact that I can’t finish my senior year in basketball, like, our last couple of games, it’s pretty devastating.
Surely it would have been more devastating to not be able to play basketball and have chickenpox? Clearly he was determined to get back to school.
However, the 18-year-old’s attempt to challenge the health department was ultimately unsuccessful in court, and not even the ban could prevent him from catching the disease, as NBC report Kunkel started showing chickenpox symptoms last week.
Although a simple vaccination would have been enough to bypass the ban, the lawsuit and the chickenpox, the student’s family are standing by their anti-vaxx stance.
Family attorney Christopher Wiest told NBC:
These are deeply held religious beliefs, they’re sincerely held beliefs. From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it.
Kunkel hopes to have recovered by next week, and because having the disease will make him immune to it in the future, he might be able to make it to those final basketball games after all.
The student expects to be back in class soon for the first time since March 15.
The attorney added that had state health officials not intervened, Kunkel would have had the chickenpox earlier this year, meaning he wouldn’t have missed as much school.
However, it seems pointless to risk spreading the disease even further by allowing unvaccinated students to be in school amid an outbreak.
People should be encouraged to have vaccines whenever possible.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.