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Damon R. Leichty

Indiana University vaccine mandate

Indiana University vaccine mandate upheld by Federal court

This article about the Indiana University vaccine mandate was written by Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, Professor of Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law (San Francisco, CA), who is a frequent contributor to this and many other blogs, providing in-depth, and intellectually stimulating, articles about vaccines, medical issues, social policy, and the law.

Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.

On June 21, 2021, eight students, represented by attorney James Bopp Jr., filed a complaint challenging the Indiana University vaccine mandate. On July 18, 2021, Judge Damon R. Leichty, from the federal district court for the Northern District of Indiana, appointed to the court by President Donald Trump, rejected the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction in a lengthy, thoughtful decision that made it clear the plaintiffs’ chances of success on the merits are very low.

The decision is important in setting the standard for reviewing constitutional claims against university mandates, in making it clear that a reasonable university mandate has a good chance to be upheld, but that public health authorities – or universities – do not have carte blanche to impose any requirements they want, but can legitimately act to prevent disease and improve safety. It thoroughly and intelligently addresses the scientific claims of the plaintiffs – and the approach to them. It examines the difference between a general challenge and a challenge based on a fundamental right like freedom of religion.

It does not substantially add to the discussion of whether universities can mandate a vaccine under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA); though it does address the facts of the EUA, it does not go into the legal arguments about the EUA law that were addressed in a decision against a Texas hospital. Nor does it directly confront the Indiana passport law,  likely because the university changed in mandate in a way that, according to the attorney general, did not clash with it.

Finally, the decision was 101 pages. I cannot summarize all of it in a reasonable-length post, so this has to be a short summary of what I think are the main points. But it’s worth reading. There is a lot of thoughtful, in-depth analysis in it I just don’t have space for. 

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