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Indiana University's vaccine requirement will be tested in court

Contributed By:The 411 News

Eight IU students file lawsuit to oppose getting COVID-19 vaccination

Eight Indiana University students filed a federal lawsuit in Fort Wayne Monday against the university’s requirement for staff, students, and faculty to have a COVID-19 vaccination when returning to the university’s campuses for the Fall 2021 semester.

The lawsuit will test an individual’s right to refuse the vaccination and the university’s right to require that people on its campuses be vaccinated. In the U.S., COVID-19 vaccinations are given to those who volunteer to take them; they are not required.

The students’ lawsuit follows criticism of the policy by Republican state lawmakers and Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita.

James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel in the lawsuit said in a statement, “IU’s Mandate violates the constitutional rights of IU’s students—it requires all IU students without any meaningful exemptions to take the COVID vaccine. In fact no other government entity, not the FDA, not the CDC, not the State of Indiana, not any county government, and not any other Indiana public university require a COVID vaccination.”

When Indiana University announced the policy in late May, it required proof of COVID-19 vaccination from its staff, faculty, and students. The proof required was a COVID-19 vaccination card given to all who received a vaccine. Proof of vaccination was removed after the outcry and the new policy will only require people to “attest” on a form they have received the COVID-19 vaccination. Completion of the form requires including the date(s) of the vaccination.

The lawsuit alleges that IU has also violated Indiana’s Vaccine Passport Law. That law, included in HEA 1405 which passed in April, prohibits the state or a local unit from issuing or requiring a COVID-19 "immunization passport" (a document concerning an individual's immunization status).

Atty. General Rokita said HEA1405 only prohibits public universities from requiring proof of the COVID-19 vaccine; it does not prohibit them from requiring the vaccination itself.

Indiana University recognizes some people can’t receive the vaccine and stipulates which exemptions it accepts. They include a religious exemption, medical exemptions with documentation, and medical deferrals for certain pre-existing conditions. There is an exemption for online students in completely online courses with no on-campus presence.

The students’ lawsuit claims those exemptions are not enough. Nor does the university take into account the emerging risks associated for those 18-29 years old receiving the vaccine, the lawsuit states.

The policy requires the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine no later than July 1. Staff, faculty and students must be fully vaccinated by August 15 or when they return to campus after August 1, whichever is earlier.

The consequences for a student failing to follow the policy and not getting an exemption include canceled class registration, terminated student ID, and restrictions from participation in any on-campus activity. The lawsuit claims the consequences amount to virtual expulsion from IU if a student refuses to get the COVID vaccine.

Story Posted:06/23/2021

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