At the beginning of April, 18-year-old Kentucky Catholic high school student Jerome Kunkel was denied the right to attend school without having a vaccination for chickenpox. He had sued the Northern Kentucky Health Department on the grounds of “deeply held religious beliefs” against the chickenpox vaccine to be allowed back into Our Lady of Assumption Academy, in Walton. A judge in the case ruled against him, upholding public safety measures instituted by the health department that banned unvaccinated students from attending schools following a chickenpox outbreak.
On Wednesday, Kunkel’s attorney told NBC News that his client had contracted chickenpox.
“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.”
This is not the first attempt by anti-vaxxer interests to sue health departments for keeping their unvaccinated children out of school during infectious disease outbreaks. The measles has also hit the country hard. Health officials blame the spread of the diseases on people who refuse to vaccinate their children for a variety of reasons, from unscientific anti-vaxxer ideas to religious objections. These ideas have also been promoted by elected officials who should know better, such as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, who bragged about sending his kids to “chickenpox parties” where parents bring unvaccinated kids together to contract the disease in what they claim is a safe alternative to vaccination for future immunity.