Jerome Kunkel is about to miss the last few games of his high school basketball career because he hasn’t been vaccinated for chickenpox.
As People reports, Jerome is in his senior year at Assumption Academy, a Catholic school in Walton, Kentucky. The school recently suffered a chickenpox outbreak, which prompted the North Kentucky Health Department to issue a strict rule in an attempt to control its spread.
According to Fox 19, after 32 cases of chickenpox were reported, the health department ruled that students who hadn’t been vaccinated and didn’t have proof of immunity could not attend school or extracurricular activities for 21 days after the last rash from a student or staff member.
For Jerome, a center on the basketball team, that meant that he couldn’t practice or attend any of the remaining basketball games this year. He told WLWT:
“The fact that I can’t finish my senior year in basketball, like, our last couple of games, it’s pretty devastating. I mean, you go through four years of high school playing basketball you look forward to your senior year.”
As Jerome’s father, Bill, explained, they have a religious objection to the chickenpox vaccine. Bill, who came from the era of chickenpox parties and considers it a minor childhood disease, added:
“I don’t believe in that vaccine at all and they are trying to push it on us. The chickenpox vaccine is derived from aborted fetuses. And, of course, as Christians, we’re against abortion.”
The Kunkel family did fill out the school’s religious exemption forms for the mandatory vaccine program. They also contacted the health department about the ban. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, a health department official responded:
“Without definitive evidence of immunity, a person could be a source of potential exposure, even if they are currently healthy. It’s impossible to know how anyone will react to chickenpox, therefore we must act with an abundance of caution.”
Jerome has filed a lawsuit against the health department, claiming that he is being discriminated against based on his religion. He told WKRC:
“For the health department to say we have to get vaccines in order to go to school, that’s infringing upon my First Amendment right.”
In a statement to Fox 19, the health department said it was aware of the suit and that its actions were intended “to protect the public health”:
Chickenpox, also known as varicella, can be a very serious illness that is especially dangerous for infants and pregnant women or anyone who has a weakened immune system. The recent actions taken by the Northern Kentucky Health Department regarding the chickenpox outbreak at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy was in direct response to a public health threat and was an appropriate and necessary response to prevent further spread of this infectious illness.
A court hearing is scheduled for April 1.
Editor’s Note: As the US National Library of Medicine reports, not vaccinating yourself or your children has become a serious threat to public health. There is currently no research that supports the claims made by those who are anti-vaccination, including claims made by the subject in this article.