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Appeals court upholds Indiana University’s vaccine mandate

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Indiana University can proceed with its plan to require students and employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19, in what is the highest court decision regarding college immunization mandates.

Posted: Aug 3, 2021 8:36 AM

NDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Monday that Indiana University can proceed with its plan to require students and employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19, in what is the highest court decision regarding college immunization mandates.

The Chicago-based appeals court upheld an Indiana district court judge's ruling that found that the university was acting reasonably “in pursuing public health and safety for its campus communities.”

Both courts rejected a request by eight IU students who sought to block the requirement while they challenge its legality, claiming that it would violate their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment.

The policy makes vaccination a condition of attending the university, and students who don't want to get vaccinated can also seek “ample educational opportunities” elsewhere, according to the appeals court ruling. Still, the vaccination policy allows exemptions on religious and medical grounds, which the court said provides constitutional accommodations for those who qualify.

“Once again, the court has affirmed our legitimate public health interest in assuring the safety of our students, faculty and staff and we are excited to welcome our community back for the fall semester,” the university said in a statement Monday.

James Bopp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs who takes on conservative political causes, said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the rulings, which legal experts say are the first from federal courts regarding college immunization mandates. Similar lawsuits against student vaccine requirements at the University of Connecticut and the California State University system are awaiting action.

College officials across the country have struggled with whether they have the authority to require student vaccinations, which some see as key to returning campus to in-person classes and other normal activities.

Bopp argues that such vaccine requirements violate their rights to “bodily autonomy” and that the COVID-19 vaccines differ from other immunizations frequently required for college students, such as for measles and meningitis, because of their newness and the lower risks that younger adults have of suffering from severe bouts of COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed after IU officials announced in May that the school would require its roughly 90,000 students and 40,000 employees on its seven campuses to receive COVID-19 vaccinations for the fall semester. Students who don’t comply will have their registration canceled and workers who don’t will lose their jobs.

IU initially was going to require students and employees to provide immunization documentation. That sparked a backlash from Republican state lawmakers and the state attorney general, leading university officials to make providing proof of vaccination optional and allow students and employees to simply attest to their vaccination in an online form.

The university is allowing religious and medical exemptions, but school spokesman Chuck Carney said more than 80% of students have reported receiving at least one dose.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1007681

Reported Deaths: 16470
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1355212121
Lake664101166
Allen57993801
Hamilton46350465
St. Joseph44397615
Elkhart35949510
Vanderburgh32251480
Tippecanoe27933260
Johnson25107445
Hendricks23897359
Porter22929365
Madison18748409
Clark18557252
Vigo17479303
Monroe15263200
LaPorte15173250
Delaware15073263
Howard14748290
Kosciusko12348148
Hancock11728176
Bartholomew11639180
Warrick11292189
Floyd11108215
Wayne10986253
Grant10082220
Morgan9472176
Boone8926115
Dubois8271131
Henry8229152
Dearborn822393
Noble8031106
Marshall7939135
Cass7546121
Lawrence7457171
Shelby7189119
Jackson698289
Gibson6597115
Harrison649192
Knox6421106
Huntington6395100
DeKalb632399
Montgomery6264111
Miami593398
Putnam581278
Clinton576171
Whitley565755
Steuben562576
Wabash5332104
Jasper532079
Jefferson511297
Ripley500586
Adams482576
Daviess4677114
Scott438974
Greene425196
Wells424888
Clay423360
White418764
Decatur4169102
Fayette406587
Jennings387361
Posey376644
Washington359151
LaGrange359078
Randolph3452100
Spencer340243
Fountain335760
Sullivan329452
Starke317171
Owen314771
Fulton312667
Orange293664
Jay284645
Franklin265643
Perry265452
Rush262432
Carroll261934
Vermillion258654
Parke231426
Pike229243
Tipton228159
Blackford193142
Pulaski183757
Crawford159823
Newton158348
Benton150617
Brown146747
Martin138719
Switzerland135011
Warren121116
Union107016
Ohio84613
Unassigned0540

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