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Kentucky Teen Sues School Over Chickenpox Vaccine Requirement, Promptly Gets Chickenpox


The discussions around vaccinations are getting heated, with some calling out family members, and families trying to defy science.

A student in Kentucky tried to sue his state’s health department for a ban against students not immune to chickenpox, amid an outbreak of the disease. His suit was unsuccessful and now the original point has become moot.

Jerome Kunkel is a student at the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy. Nearly 90 percent of the Catholic school claims to have a religious exemption against vaccinations.

In February, the health department had warned parents about an outbreak of chickenpox. But by mid-March, more than 30 cases of chickenpox had broken out.

So when dozens of cases of chickenpox broke out, the state health department implemented an order prohibiting people not immune to the disease from attending school or extracurriculars to stem the tide of the outbreak.

Kunkel felt this amounted to religious discrimination and tried to sue the health department and his school for following the order.

Kunkel and his family oppose the vaccination on religious grounds. The chickenpox vaccine is one of several that some ultraconservative Catholics refuse to take.

The vaccines have their origins in fetal cells taken decades ago.

While the Catholic Church has stated that these cell lines are far enough removed from their source, and serving the public good is enough moral justification to be vaccinated, some people still refuse  to vaccinate.

Kunkel’s suit was unsuccessful.

Despite the teen really wanting to play basketball, the judge sided with the health department.

Kunkel said:

“I’m definitely devastated by the judge’s ruling. It doesn’t seem logical to me,”

He intended to appeal the decision, his lawyer agreeing that the health department had been too restrictive in their response.

Chris Wiest, Kunkel’s attorney said:

“We don’t believe the health department met its burden.”

“They had the burden to prove that they used the least restrictive means possible to further a compelling governmental interest. There’s been no proof of that.”

They prepared to file their appeal.

And then Kunkel got chickenpox.

Kunkel is still going through the disease, but hopes to be back in class soon.

He told local news station, WLWT:

“Thing are somewhat normal except … for homework I got to catch up with,”

Kunkel’s lawyer commented on the inefficacy of the ban.

He said:

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

This is an incredibly dangerous mentality.

While many might be fine suffering through chickenpox and becoming immune to it that way, the disease itself is dangerous for infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and others whose immunity is compromised.

State health officials spoke on this as well.

“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.”

Much like the judge, the internet also sides with the state health department.

The argument surrounding vaccinations has become almost impossible to avoid. As the antivaxx movement has gained steam, public researchers and medical professionals have tried to reassure the public.

While vaccines do possess side effects, the public good they provide far outweighs them. Millions of deaths are prevented every year thanks to vaccines.

Ben Acosta

Written by Ben Acosta

Ben Acosta is an Arizona-based fiction author and freelance writer. In his free time, he critiques media and acts in local stage productions.