July 21, 2021 -- A federal judge has ruled that Indiana University can require students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 when they return to campus for the fall semester.

Judge Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana said he weighed individual freedom against public health concerns in coming to his decision, The New York Times reported.

Eight students had sued the university and sought a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the vaccine requirement. The students’ lawyer, James Bopp Jr., told the Times he would appeal immediately to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“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,” Bopp said.

The school announced in May that all students, faculty, and staff needed to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15 to return for the fall semester.

A news release said students who don’t obtain vaccine exemptions could see their class registrations canceled, lose access to campus email systems, and not be allowed to participate in on-campus activities. Faculty and staff could lose their jobs, the release said, adding that working remotely and not meeting the vaccine requirement “is not an option.”

There’s a similar lawsuit about university vaccine mandates in California, the Times said.

Vaccine mandates are being considered for colleges and universities across the nation. The Chronicle of Higher Education says that 586 schools already have some form of a vaccine mandate, though some schools say the vaccines must have full FDA approval.

The vaccines now being administered in the United States have emergency use authorization, and the vaccine makers have applied for full approval.

The campus vaccine mandates may be difficult to enforce. The Wall Street Journal reported that states including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah have passed laws prohibiting schools and colleges from requiring Covid-19 vaccination or proof of vaccination.

Show Sources

The New York Times: “Indiana University Can Require Students to Get Coronavirus Vaccines”

University of Indiana. “COVID-19 vaccine will be required for all at Indiana University”

The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Here’s a List of Colleges That Will Require Students or Employees to Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19” 

The Wall Street Journal: “Covid-19 School Mandates for Masks, Vaccines Are Blocked in More States”

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