A northern Kentucky teenager banned from school for refusing the chickenpox vaccination due to his religious beliefs has come down with chickenpox, his attorney said Wednesday.
The attorney representing Jerome Kunkel, an 18-year-old senior at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, Ky., told NBC News on Wednesday that Kunkel began showing symptoms of the childhood malady last week.
Attorney Christopher Wiest told the outlet that the Kunkel family does not regret their decision to be unvaccinated.
“These are deeply held religious beliefs, they’re sincerely held beliefs,” Weist said. “From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it.”
NBC News reported that some ultraconservative Catholics oppose chickenpox vaccinations because the vaccine was developed in the 1960s from cell lines of two aborted fetuses.
After a chickenpox outbreak at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy in March, state health officials ordered unvaccinated students to stay away from school.
Kunkel unsuccessfully challenged the state ban in court.
Wiest called the ban “stupid,” adding that Kunkel “could have contracted this in March and been back to school by now.”
Kunkel has been out of school since March 15 and is hoping to return now that he has been exposed to chickenpox and will be immune to it, Wiest said.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) made headlines in March when he told reporters he had deliberately exposed his nine children to chickenpox rather than vaccinating them.
“They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it. They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine,” Bevin said.
The governor also expressed skepticism about state-mandated vaccinations.
“Why are we forcing kids to get it? If you are worried about your child getting chickenpox or whatever else, vaccinate your child,” Bevin said. “But for some people, and for some parents, for some reason they choose otherwise. This is America. The federal government should not be forcing this upon people. They just shouldn’t.”