UPDATE: Federal judge affirms Indiana University vaccine requirement

Indiana University can require its roughly 90,000 students and 40,000 employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 under a federal judge’s ruling that might be the first of its kind regarding college immunization mandates.

In a ruling dated Sunday, U.S. District Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend rejected a request from eight IU students who sought to block the requirement while they pursue a lawsuit claiming that the university’s policy violated their constitutional rights by forcing them to receive unwanted medical treatment.

James Bopp, a conservative lawyer representing the students, said Monday that he plans to appeal the ruling, which he believes is the first by a federal judge in challenges to such mandates, which have been imposed by hundreds of U.S. public and private colleges.

Leichty wrote that the students haven’t presented evidence showing they could prevail in the case, and that the Constitution “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.”

Leichty, who held a hearing on the case last week, said the plaintiffs could seek medical or religious exemptions offered by the university, or they could take the fall semester off or attend another school.

University officials defended the vaccination policy as one “designed for the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff.”

“We appreciate the quick and thorough ruling which allows us to focus on a full and safe return,” the university said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming everyone to our campuses for the fall semester.”

Bopp said he would ask an appeals court to block the university’s policy from taking effect.

“An admitted IU student’s right to attend IU cannot be conditioned on the student waiving their rights to bodily integrity, bodily autonomy, and consent to medical treatment like IU has done here,” he said.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in federal courts in Connecticut and California, Bopp said. 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.

Indiana law currently requires students at state residential colleges and universities to get immunized for six diseases — diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and meningitis. Students in public K-12 schools are required to get vaccinated for an additional five diseases.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who range in age from 18 to 39, maintain that their age group is at low risk of severe cases of COVID-19 and that they face possible dangers from the vaccine that is being administered under federal emergency use authorization.

Leichty, who became a federal judge in 2019 after his nomination by then-President Donald Trump, faulted a doctor who testified against IU’s policy for using “soft and inconsequential language” and cited the extensive review by federal health agencies to confirm the safety of the three available COVID-19 vaccines.

“Progress has been made because of the vaccine, not despite it,” Leichty wrote. “To the extent that lingering medical and scientific debate remain … the court remains resolved that Indiana University has acted reasonably here in pursuing public health and safety for its campus communities.”

The lawsuit was filed after IU officials announced in May that the school would require all students and employees 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 conservative backlash, with nearly all Republican members of the Indiana Senate signing a letter calling the policy a “heavy-handed mandate goes against many of the liberties on which our founders built our democratic republic.”

A non-binding opinion from Republican state Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office called the policy illegal under a new state law banning the state or local governments from requiring vaccine passports.

In response, IU made providing proof of vaccination optional and is allowing students and employees at its seven campuses to attest to their vaccination in an online form.

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9 thoughts on “UPDATE: Federal judge affirms Indiana University vaccine requirement

  1. Ah, the long tentacles of contemporary, unbridled “liberalism” as exercised by The People’s Republic School of Monroe County: You WILL comply or the jack boots will come after you. It’s only your body to do with as you please so long as we’re talking about abortion on demand.

    1. Hit post too soon.

      The judge in question, a Damon Leichty, was nominated by Trump in 2018 and confirmed in 2019.

      Bob, you make this way too easy. This must be what it feels like to be Shohei Ohtani.

      And if IU loses, they can just adopt the Purdue policy … either get vaccinated or jump through a lot of hoops. And some places even make you pay for your weekly testing, too.

    2. Yes, what’s next, you’re going to have to get your kids vaccinated to send them to school! Wait, that is already the case.

      It’s so sad that the conservative movement I’ve fought for all my life now buys into the nonsense that being conservative means not getting vaccinated during a pandemic. So stupid.

  2. The judge’s opinion is almost exactly what I wrote in a comment on an earlier article about this case. My prediction came true, and the MAGA followers were wrong once again. It’s extremely ridiculous that vaccinations have been politicized by the right-wing media. I’ve been listening to SiriusXM Patriot (right-wing talk) for the last week to try and understand why so many people are anti-vax. The constant spewing of nonsense about the government forcing vaccinations is insane, and I’m sad that their followers believe them. I’m truly worried that anti-vax people who have babies aren’t going to give them shots for things like polio. It’d truly be a disaster if diseases like polio and measles start coming back.

    If Donald Trump had been reelected and was pushing these vaccines, all of you would have gotten them already. Stop getting sick and dying just to “resist tyranny”. It’s only hurting your party by making you seem like members of a cult to most of the public. Not to mention that if you die from Covid-19, you won’t be voting in future elections.

    1. ]] If Donald Trump had been reelected and was pushing these vaccines [[
      .
      Donald *was* vaccinated back in January: *before* he vacated the White House.
      .

    2. Wesley: “If Donald Trump had been reelected and was pushing these vaccines, all of you would have gotten them already.”
      .
      Donald *was* vaccinated back in January: *before* he vacated the White House. Despite the current rumors of negotiation with DJT re: him doing a PSA, he has everything to gain from people believing it’s to their advantage to be renegades and nothing to gain from him convincing them to get the shots. Some on these boards make it sound like it’s still a “research” shot, even if the Feds were to give it the status IBJers claim they need, they’d come up with another excuse.

  3. Yes, Wesley, but Trump got vaccinated in private and has hardly said a word about it. And, no, he has nothing to gain from going public to get people to get vaccinated. His MAGA supporters are anti-vax and Trump isn’t about to upset them. Trump has always been a follower, never a leader, when it comes to public opinion.

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    Adverse reactions reported in a clinical trial following administration of the Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, myalgia, arthralgia, chills, nausea/vomiting, axillary swelling/tenderness, fever, swelling at the injection site, and erythema at the injection site.

    The following adverse reactions have been reported following administration of the Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine during mass vaccination outside of clinical trials:

    Severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxisMyocarditisPericarditis

    Additional adverse reactions, some of which may be serious, may become apparent with more widespread use of the Moderna COVID‑19 Vaccine.

    Reporting Adverse Events and Vaccine Administration

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