Anti-vaccination student who sued health department after being banned from school now has chickenpox

A Kentucky teenager who made headlines when he sued a local health department over its vaccination policy has now come down with chickenpox.

Jerome Kunkel, an 18-year-old student at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy who was banned from school and his basketball team for refusing the chickenpox vaccination, now has the easily-preventable disease, a lawyer for the teen confirmed to NBC News.

Kunkel, who opposes vaccines due to his religious beliefs, reportedly understood the risk and still does not regret the decision.

"These are deeply held religious beliefs, they're sincerely held beliefs," attorney Christopher Wiest told the outlet. "From [his family's] perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it."

Kunkel sued the Northern Kentucky Health Department in March after it ruled that all students at Sacred Heart Assumption Academy who hadn't been vaccinated against chickenpox could no longer come to classes amid an outbreak of the disease, which began in February and included 32 confirmed cases.

"I don't believe in that vaccine at all and they are trying to push it on us," Kunkle's father, Bill, told WLWT

A judge ruled against Kunkel and in favor of the Northern Kentucky Health Department in April, a decision that left the teen "devastated" and determined to appeal. 

"We think the judge misapplied the law and that’s what appeals courts are for, to make sure the law is followed,” his attorney Wiest said at the time. 

In response to the April ruling, the health department released the following statement:

"Today the Boone Circuit Court issued a decision upholding the Northern Kentucky District Health Department’s statutory charge to protect the health and welfare of the community. We are pleased with the Court’s careful and thorough review of the evidence and legal issues posed in this case. The Court’s ruling, which follows on the heels of the Northern Kentucky Health Department receiving national recognition through re-accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board, underscores the critical need for Public Health Departments to preserve the safety of the entire community, and in particular the safety of those members of our community who are most susceptible to the dire consequences when a serious, infectious disease such as varicella, is left unabated and uncontrolled."

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