The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that it will not approve the request of the students of Indiana University to block the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The verdict clears the way for school officials to require students and faculty members to be vaccinated. The only exceptions to the mandate include religious objections, medical conditions like allergies, and those conducting their classes online.
Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett turned down the request of the Indiana University students for emergency relief. The case is the first challenge to a vaccine mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. In the request, filed last week, the students claimed that the university’s vaccine mandate would violate their constitutional right to bodily integrity under the 14th Amendment.
Earlier this month, the Chicago-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the requirement in a decision, citing a 1905 Supreme Court precedent that allowed Massachusetts to impose a penalty on those who declined smallpox vaccinations. In the decision, 7th Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook had said: “People who do not want to be vaccinated may go elsewhere.” Easterbrook continued to say that the university will have difficulty operating if the students were afraid to contract the virus.
Following the apex court ruling, the Indiana University issued a statement, saying: “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.”
We are grateful to those who have stepped up to protect themselves and others, it added.
A representative for the students, James Bopp, said that they were disappointed with the Supreme Court ruling, noting that the students are adults and are “entitled to make medical treatment decisions for themselves.”
Bopp added that the university was not able to prove that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate is justified, and the courts who heard the emergency relief request did not require the university to make any justification on their mandate. Bopp said their fight is not over.
Many employers, restaurants, and schools have turned to vaccine mandates as more and more cases of COVID-19 brought about by the Delta variant are recorded daily across the United States. Most of the cases are from the unvaccinated population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 40 percent of the country’s adult population is not yet fully vaccinated.