In what appears to be the first formal challenge to a college requiring Covid-19 vaccinations for its students, Informed Consent Action Network has sent a letter to Rutgers University asking it to rescind its mandate.
Acting on behalf of the anti-vaccine advocacy group, lawyers with Siri Glimstad LLC wrote on Thursday to the Rutgers president, Jonathan Holloway, that the mandate “violates federal law, international laws, civil and individual rights, and public policy.” The Informed Consent Action Network, the lawyers wrote, has received “numerous inquiries,” including some from Rutgers students, about the vaccine requirement.
It is illegal for Rutgers to require students to receive vaccinations that have obtained only emergency-use authorization from the federal Food and Drug Administration, and have not been fully approved, wrote the lawyers, Aaron Siri and Elizabeth A. Brehm, in the firm’s New York City office.
“Rutgers is effectively forcing each student to choose between receiving an education or receiving an experimental medical treatment to which they do not consent,” the letter reads. The right to informed medical consent, the lawyers wrote, is “considered a fundamental, overriding principle of medical ethics.” Rutgers’s policy, they said, would also violate its contractual obligations as a state-approved vaccine-distribution center.
A spokeswoman for Rutgers, a public university in New Jersey, said the institution was “committed to creating a safe campus environment in fall 2021, and to support the health and safety for all members of the Rutgers community, the university is updating existing immunization requirements for students to include the COVID-19 vaccine.” Rutgers’ position, she wrote in an email to The Chronicle, “is consistent with the legal authority supporting this policy.”
Rutgers became the first college to announce a vaccine requirement, on March 25, and is the only state flagship institution to have done so. Weeks later, only four other public institutions — Cleveland State University, in Ohio; Fort Lewis College, in Colorado; Montclair State University, in New Jersey; and Oakland University, in Michigan — have followed suit.