Kentucky teen loses chickenpox vaccine case again

A Kentucky court of appeals sided with a health department after a teen sued the department over a policy that barred him from attending school without receiving the chickenpox vaccination.

Jerome Kunkel sued his local health department in March after he refused to get the vaccine, citing his Christian faith.

Boone County Circuit Judge James Schrand sided with the Northern Kentucky Health Department in April, rejecting Kunkel’s request to prevent the health department from enforcing a policy that temporarily barred students at his school who weren’t immune against chickenpox from attending classes and participating in extracurricular activities.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of appeals denied the teen’s request for an injunction in the case on Monday.

The Northern Kentucky Health Department announced in March that all students at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky, where Kunkel was enrolled, needed to have proof they were vaccinated before they could attend school after 32 people were affected during an outbreak.

The policy stated that all students at the school without “proof of vaccination or proof of immunity against chickenpox will not be allowed to attend school until 21 days after the onset of rash for the last ill student or staff member.”

As a result, Kunkel was told he couldn’t attend school or play in any upcoming basketball games.

Kunkel sued the health department and told CNN affiliate WLWT that he was being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs.
In response to Kunkel’s lawsuit, the health department said its policy “was in direct response to a public health threat and was an appropriate and necessary response to prevent further spread of this contagious illness.”

Kunkel was diagnosed with chickenpox in May, two months after going to court over the policy, and was able to return to school shortly after, his attorney Christopher Wiest told CNN.

Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash, itching, fever and tiredness, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus spreads by contact with infected individuals.

The CDC recommends against people intentionally exposing children to chickenpox in hope that they get the disease.

CNN’s Julia Jones, Madison Park, and Christina Zdanowicz contributed to this report.