In what appears to be the first vaccine-mandate lawsuit filed against a college, eight Indiana University students sued the Board of Trustees on Monday over a policy requiring Covid-19 vaccines for students and employees.
Indiana requires students, staff, and faculty to be fully vaccinated by the time they return to campus for the fall 2021 term. They may apply for medical or religious-belief exemptions to the requirement, but if they get one, they must wear a face covering on campus and get tested for Covid-19 regularly. Students who don’t comply will have their classes canceled, and employees will be fired.
The eight student plaintiffs — who include undergraduate and graduate students — object to both the vaccine mandate and the alternative requirements.
Employees of a hospital, a detention center, and a public school district have filed similar complaints in recent weeks. One argument that has come up frequently in such cases is that institutions can’t require vaccines that remain under emergency-use authorization, rather than full approval, from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
In April, a law firm representing an anti-vaccine group sent letters to colleges making that argument, but some other lawyers haven’t found it convincing. Lawyers at the firm Reavis Page Jump in New York are advising their higher-education clients that they can and should require Covid vaccines, with regular exemption procedures, said Mark H. Moore, a partner. In the only court decision on Covid-19 vaccine requirements so far — regarding Houston Methodist Hospital’s mandate — a federal judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint, which included an argument about emergency-use authorization.
“I think this should give some comfort to university administrators,” Moore said.
The Houston Methodist employees who were fired for not getting vaccinated are appealing the decision.
The wrinkle in the Indiana case is that the state recently passed a ban on vaccine passports. Experts and politicians are debating whether the ban applies to public universities, WGN9 reports.