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Federal Judge Upholds Indiana University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate 

A federal judge ruled that students’ right to bodily autonomy must be weighed against the state’s greater interest. 


A federal judge ruled Monday that Indiana University can require all students to take the emergency-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. 

James Bopp Jr., the lawyer representing eight student plaintiffs, argued that requiring the vaccine violated the 14th Amendment and students’ right to bodily integrity and autonomy. 

With research still emerging about the vaccine and its potential short- and long-term side effects, Bopp contended that those taking the vaccine could not give voluntary informed consent.

Indeed, none of the current vaccines have passed fertility, teratogenicity, or mutagenicity testing, and may be harmful to young women who become pregnant. The vaccine has been linked to cases of severe allergic reactions

Moreover, since the vaccine in question has only been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, the student plaintiffs believe it cannot be included among the required school vaccines. 

Trump-appointed judge, Damon R. Leichty of the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana, said that while he recognizes “the students’ significant liberty to refuse unwanted medical treatment,” such a right must be weighed against the state’s greater interest. 

“The Fourteenth Amendment 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,” stated Leichty.

Bopp disagreed. “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,” he said. Bopp also argued that the university was essentially forcing students to choose between getting vaccinated and continuing their education at IU. 

The lawsuit was filed in June after Indiana University announced the previous month that faculty, staff, and students would be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine before attending classes this fall.

More than 520 of America’s 5,300 colleges and universities (10 percent) have announced students must be fully vaccinated against the Wuhan Virus before they return for fall classes.

Judge Leichty made sure to note that students could receive a religious or medical exception from Indiana University. However, at other universities across the country, these exemption policies have been limited and unscientific. Consequently, exemptions are not often granted.  

IU student and lawsuit plaintiff Jaime Carini was denied a vaccine exemption after a world-class infectious disease physician told her to avoid the vaccine due to her several chronic illnesses. 

If a student does qualify for an exemption, he or she will be forced to wear masks, take additional coronavirus tests, and either head home or quarantine in the case of an outbreak.

If unvaccinated students are forced to wear masks, they will inevitably be identified by everyone as unvaccinated, making these special rules a potential violation of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the federal law that grants people the right to medical privacy.

For IU students who are not granted an exemption and refuse to comply and get vaccinated, the punishment is severe. They will have their class registrations canceled, be prohibited from campus activities, and even their access to online university systems will be revoked.

In short, students who don’t receive an exemption at Indiana University can either get the vaccine or find a new school to attend. In the case of staff, a new job. 

Bopp has vowed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.