WALTON, Ky. (AP) — The lawyer for a Kentucky high school student who wasn’t allowed to participate in school activities because he wasn’t vaccinated for chickenpox says his client has now contracted the illness.
Attorney Christopher Wiest of Covington told The Kentucky Enquirer that 18-year-old Jerome Kunkel came down with chickenpox last week. Wiest says Kunkel is “fine” and “a little itchy.”
After an outbreak, students who weren’t vaccinated were ordered to stay away from Our Lady of the Assumption Church school and activities.
Kunkel sued the Northern Kentucky Health Department, claiming the vaccine is against his religious beliefs, and others joined in. A judge last month denied the request to return to activities.
Wiest said Tuesday about half his clients have contracted chickenpox since filing the case. He said he told parents that a child’s getting chickenpox would be the quickest way to resolve the case, since a bout of chickenpox confers immunity.
The Health Department said in a news release Wednesday that Wiest’s statement was “alarming and disappointing.” The department said people who contract chickenpox can expose others to the virus before the disease becomes apparent.
“While the tactic Wiest suggests may provide an individual with future immunity from chickenpox, this infected person can easily spread the virus to other, unsuspecting people, including those particularly vulnerable to this potentially life-threatening infection,” the department said.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said in March during an interview on Bowling Green radio station WKCT that he deliberately exposed his children to chickenpox so they would catch the disease and become immune. The Republican governor said parents worried about chickenpox should have their children vaccinated but suggested that government shouldn’t mandate the vaccination.
Kentucky requires that children entering kindergarten be vaccinated for chickenpox, but parents may seek religious exemptions or provide proof that a child already had the disease.