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Supreme Court upholds Indiana University's vaccine requirement for students

Supreme Court upholds Indiana University's vaccine requirement for students
Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday unilaterally denied a request by Indiana University students to block the school's requirement that students get vaccinated against COVID-19. File Pool photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 12 (UPI) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block Indiana University's requirement that all students receive the COVID-19 vaccine before attending classes in the fall semester.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who handles emergency matters from Indiana, unilaterally issued the ruling denying the request by eight Indiana students to block the vaccine requirement.

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Barrett did not refer the matter to other justices and provided no rationale for the ruling.

The university imposed a requirement for all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an approved exemption with the goal of returning to normal operation for the fall 2021 semester.

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In response, the students filed a legal challenge stating the requirement violates their constitutional right to bodily integrity under the 14th Amendment as well as concerns including "underlying medical conditions, having natural antibodies, and the risks associated with the vaccine," they wrote.

"All students are adults, are entitled to make their own medical treatment decisions, and have a constitutional right to bodily integrity autonomy and of medical treatment choice in the context of a vaccination mandate," the challenge stated. "IU, however, is treating its students as children who cannot be trusted to make mature decisions and has substituted itself for both the student and her attending physician, mandating a choice which is the student's to make, based on her physician's advice."

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They filed the emergency appeal to the Supreme Court last week after two lower federal courts rejected the petition.

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The Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the requirement, with Judge Frank Easterbrook writing that the university would face difficulty operating if students were afraid others were spreading the virus.

"People who do not want to be vaccinated may go elsewhere," Eastbrook wrote.

The university praised the ruling and said that 85% of its students, faculty and staff are approaching full vaccination.

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"With a third ruling, now from the nation's highest court, affirming Indiana University's COVID-19 vaccination plan, we look forward to beginning fall semester with our health and safety policies in place," Indiana University said in a statement. "We are grateful to those who have stepped up to protect themselves and others."

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