Kentucky court rules in favor of health department over teen who refused chickenpox vaccine

The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled that state health officials were within their power to ban a chickenpox-afflicted student from school, even at private institutions.

A three-judge panel upheld a lower-court ruling that involved the Northern Kentucky Health Department and two Catholic schools in Boone County, about 25 miles south of Cincinnati.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Friday, but made no comment beyond a pro forma declaration, “order denying relief.”

The Northern Kentucky Health Department on Monday hailed the court’s ruling as a “resounding victory for public health.” The agency said it exercised “reasonable, appropriate and necessary” actions “to control the spread of a highly infectious disease.”

A chickenpox outbreak at Assumption Academy and Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School in March prompted state health officials to order unvaccinated students to stay away from class and extracurricular activities.

That prompted Sacred Heart 12th grader Jerome Kunkel to challenge the ban in court. Kunkel’s lawyer could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday. Kunkel came down with the virus in May.

Some ultraconservative Catholics oppose chickenpox vaccinations because it was developed in the 1960s from cell lines of two aborted fetuses. The Vatican has said it’s OK for Roman Catholics to get the vaccine.