A federal judge on Monday endorsed a university’s decision to impose a COVID-19 vaccine on its students and staff, while the issue is divided as back-to-school approaches in the United States.
South Bend District Court Judge Damon Leste, east of Chicago, issued the first ruling on the matter, but it is subject to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Urgently seized by eight students, he refused to suspend the new health rules imposed by Indiana University in light of the resumption of studies on its campus between 1he is and August 15.
These rules make vaccination mandatory for its 90,000 students and 40,000 employees, but provide for exemptions for religious or medical reasons.
Justice Dimon wrote that the Constitution allows students to “refuse medical treatment on the principle of one’s right to dispose of one’s own body.”
But it also authorizes “to impose a reasonable vaccination process in the legitimate interest of public health,” he adds. “This is what the university did,” he said in a 100-page resolution.
Of the eight complainants, six actually benefit from the exemption for religious reasons, but did not want to wear a mask or respect social distancing, he recalls.
The judge wrote that some had advanced religious goals or feared being discriminated against, and others called the action a “cultural attack.” However, in recent months they have all agreed to comply with these health measures in other contexts, he asserts.
The vaccination campaign in the United States, which has made tremendous progress against the epidemic, has stalled in recent weeks. About 68% of adults received at least a first dose, but large geographic variations exist.
Opposition to a vaccine is closely tied to America’s political divisions, with hostility more visible on the right, particularly among Donald Trump supporters.
Several conservative groups, such as the student union Turning Point, have launched a campaign against compulsory vaccination on college campuses and are supporting complaints across the country.
Universities have taken various positions, with half a thousand currently requiring their students or staff to receive anti-COVID injections.