A federal judge on Monday ruled that Indiana University can require students to be vaccinated against the coronavirus in the first such case since the pandemic began, The New York Times reports.
A growing number of colleges have announced vaccine requirements for the upcoming fall semester and Monday’s decision suggests that these institutions have the all-clear to move ahead with their mandates.
Indiana University said in June that all students and staff must be vaccinated before the fall semester. The college said it would cancel students’ class registrations and ban them from campus activities if they do not comply, unless they are granted a religious or medical exemption.
District Court Judge Damon Leichty, a Trump appointee, on Monday ruled that the college can move forward with its requirement.
“The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff,” he wrote, noting that the college will allow students who do not get vaccinated to attend virtual classes.
Students plan to appeal:
The ruling came in response to a lawsuit by eight students who argued that the mandate violated their right to bodily integrity and autonomy and that the vaccine has not been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
James Bopp Jr., a lawyer for the students, said that he will appeal the decision.
“What we have here is the government forcing you to do something that you strenuously object to and have your body invaded in the process,” he said.
The appeal would be paid for by America’s Frontline Doctors, an anti-vaccine group that has spread Covid misinformation.
More lawsuits as mandates increase:
More than 500 campuses have already announced vaccine requirements for the fall semester, largely on the eastern and western coasts.
Similar lawsuits have been filed against state university systems in California and Connecticut, arguing that the requirements violate students’ 14th Amendment rights.
Judge Leichty noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found certain adverse side effects among young people to the vaccine but argued that the cases were rare and the students’ interests did not outweigh the risk to the public.
“No one should blithely dismiss the call for further investigation, but the students’ case isn’t strong today,” he wrote.