The Kentucky teenager who filed a lawsuit after he was banned from school for refusing to be vaccinated against chickenpox now has the infectious disease.
Jerome Kunkel's attorney revealed on Wednesday that the high school senior at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy started to show symptoms of the malady last week and hopes to recover by next week.
Lawsuit Over School Ban During Chickenpox Outbreak
The 18-year-old did not want to get vaccinated citing his religious beliefs. He made news when a chickenpox outbreak at his school in March prompted state health officials to order the unvaccinated students to stay away from school.
This meant that Kunkel, who also plays basketball, could not attend classes and participate in extracurricular activities. Kunkel filed a lawsuit to challenge the state ban, especially because it affects his basketball season.
"The fact that I can't finish my senior year of basketball, like our last couple games is pretty devastating. I mean you go through four years of high school, playing basketball, but you look forward to your senior year," he said.
Boone County Circuit Judge James Schrand, however, rejected the teen's request to prevent the health department from enforcing the ban. Schrand also pointed out that one of Kunkel's parents signed a state form that allows rejection of immunization on religious grounds provided the child may not be allowed in school for weeks once an outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease occurs.
Kunkel and his family said they do not have regrets about their decision to not be vaccinated.
The family's lawyer Christopher Wiest said the family deeply hold their religious beliefs and are aware of the possibility they could contract illness for their refusal to get vaccinated.
"From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it," Wiest said.
Some ultraconservative Catholics are against chickenpox vaccination because the vaccine was developed from the cell lines of two aborted fetuses. Kunkel earlier explained that he is not opposed to all vaccinations, only those that use aborted fetal cells.
Since Kunkel already had the chickenpox and thus already has immunity to it, he hopes to return to class for the first time since March 15.