Brutal irony of teen’s anti-vax campaign
A US teenager, who controversially sued his own high school last month, after refusing to have the chickenpox vaccination, has now contracted the virus.
Jerome Kunkel, a devout Christian from Kentucky, made headlines several weeks ago after he and his family launched legal action against his school, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Assumption Academy.
It came after the school banned unvaccinated students from attending classes and extra curricular activities following an outbreak of chickenpox in March.
In the weeks since his unsuccessful lawsuit, Jerome has contracted the highly contagious virus that he refused to be inoculated for.
The 18-year-old's lawyer, Christopher Weist, confirmed on Wednesday that his client had started showing symptoms of the preventable illness last week.
According to NBC News, the student will be allowed to return to classes when he can prove to the school his legions and blisters have closed over.
Despite the ironic turn of events, Mr Weist told NBC News his client did not regret refusing the chickenpox vaccination.
"These are deeply held religious beliefs, they're sincerely held beliefs," Mr Weist told the outlet.
"From their perspective, they always recognised they were running the risk of getting it, and they were OK with it."
Jerome's lawyer said his client opposed the vaccine on "religious grounds" and that his personal rights had been violated when he was banned from attending school.
The school experienced an outbreak of chickenpox in March, prompting health officials to insist all unvaccinated students remain home, including Jerome.
Mr Weist claimed the chickenpox vaccination was "immoral, illegal and sinful" and contradicted everything his client believed.
But a Kentucky judge didn't agree and threw out the case during the hearing in April.
'DEEPLY HELD RELIGIOUS BELIEFS'
Jerome's father, Bill Kunkel, told NBC News that their ultra conservative family was vehemently opposed to the chickenpox vaccine as it was "derived from aborted foetuses".
"As Christians, we're against abortion," Mr Kunkel said.
In fact, scientists did develop the chickenpox vaccine using various cells from two aborted foetuses in the 1960s.
Thanks to this work, the contagious disease can now be cured within several days.
Under Northern Kentucky law, school students who cannot provide proof of their immunisation "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, Jerome told NBC News he was forbidden from coming to school and playing in his beloved basketball team - one of the reasons he decided to sue the academy.
"The fact that I can't finish my senior year in basketball - our last couple of games - is pretty devastating," Jerome told NBC News.
"You get through four years of high school playing basketball and you really look forward to your senior year."
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