A Teen Sued His School For Banning Him Because He Wasn’t Vaccinated Against Chickenpox, Now He Has Chickenpox

Jerome Kunkel and his family have 'no regrets' about not getting him vaccinated.

an empty high school hallway
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Jerome Kunkel and his family have 'no regrets' about not getting him vaccinated.

A Kentucky teenager who sued his high school for banning him because he wasn’t vaccinated against chickenpox now has chickenpox, NBC News reports.

Jerome Kunkel, like an untold number of children and teenagers like him, did not get vaccinated when he was a baby as his parents hold to religious beliefs that don’t allow for vaccinations.

That became an issue for Jerome in March when his school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy in Walton, had a chickenpox outbreak. School officials, without directly blaming Jerome, banned him and other unvaccinated students from attending the school unless and until they got vaccinated.

Kunkel sued, and he lost his case in court.

Kunkel now has chickenpox.

Family attorney Christopher Wiest says that his family has no regrets about not getting the teenager vaccinated.

“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.”

Fortunately for the young man, he should be back to his old self within a week. As Health Communities reports, chickenpox is little more than a minor inconvenience in healthy children and teenagers. Symptoms include an itchy rash that usually clears up in a few days.

What’s more, now that he’s had chickenpox, he’s developed an immunity to it — essentially, he got vaccinated against the disease by getting the disease — and he will be allowed back in school.

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Kunkel is one of a growing number of children with parents who refuse to vaccinate their children. In the past two decades, the number of unvaccinated kids has skyrocketed, largely (though not completely) due to a since-disproved supposed link between vaccines and autism.

However, in Kunkel’s case, it wasn’t about the nonexistent vaccines-autism link. Rather, it was about their religious beliefs. Specifically, his parents are devout Catholics, and some Catholics eschew the chickenpox vaccine because of an association with abortion.

As the National Catholics Bioethics Center explains, back when the chickenpox vaccine was developed in the 1960s, some of the cells used in its development came from aborted fetuses. However, the center also notes that the association with abortion is now “distant,” as modern vaccines are in no way derived from cells from aborted fetuses.

Meanwhile, diseases once all but eradicated, such as chickenpox and, in particular, measles, are making a comeback. As the Centers for Disease Control reports, there are currently, as of this writing, 764 confirmed cases of measles so far in 2019. In 2010, there were 63.