Student who refused chickenpox vaccine contracts illness after suing school that banned him

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Jerome Kunkel’s religious beliefs led him to turning down the chickenpox vaccine.

An 18-year-old student who was banned by his school for refusing to take the chickenpox vaccine has now contracted the disease.

Key points:

  • Jerome Kunkel refused the chickenpox vaccine due to his religious beliefs
  • The original chickenpox vaccine was developed in the 1960s using matter from two aborted foetuses
  • Health officials say Mr Kinkel and his lawyer were “playing down the dangers of chickenpox”

Jerome Kunkel of Kentucky in the US has not been allowed back to his school since March 15, when a chickenpox outbreak prompted officials to order unvaccinated students to keep away.

Due to his conservative religious beliefs, Mr Kunkel refused the vaccination, and has since sued the school for refusing him access.

But, his lawyer confirmed, he has now contracted chickenpox and will be free to return once his symptoms have cleared.

“These are deeply held religious beliefs, they’re sincerely held beliefs,” attorney Christopher Weist told NBC News.

“From their perspective, they always recognized they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it.”

Who’s missing out on vaccinations?

Debate around immunisation focuses on ‘vaccine refusers’ but experts say we cannot ignore the other reasons children miss out on vaccines.

Some religions are against the chickenpox vaccination because the initial vaccine was developed by scientists in the 1960s using matter from two aborted foetuses.

Both parties still stand by their initial stances — Mr Weist said “the ban was stupid”, while health officials claimed he was “downplaying the dangers of the chickenpox”.

“Encouraging the spread of an acute infectious disease in a community demonstrates a callous disregard for the health and safety of friends, family, neighbours, and unsuspecting members of the general public,” Laura Brinson of the Northern Kentucky Health Department said in a statement.

“When introduced in an unvaccinated population, the virus can rapidly spread, causing serious, even deadly consequences, to people who are particularly at risk, such as infants, adolescents, pregnant women, and adults and children with weakened immune systems, including those receiving cancer treatment.”