In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, eight students are suing IU over its vaccine mandate, arguing that it is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment and violates Indiana’s recently passed law against “vaccine passports.”
The students argue they are being coerced into receiving the vaccine under threat of expulsion, and that this coercion violates their Fourteenth Amendment right to bodily autonomy and the right to reject medical treatment.
“The university is confident it will prevail in this case,” IU spokesperson Chuck Carney told the IDS in an email. “The attorney general’s opinion affirmed our right to require the vaccine.”
After Attorney General Todd Rokita released a non-binding opinion stating the requirement to receive the vaccine was allowed but that the reporting requirement violated state law, IU changed its policy to no longer require uploading proof of the required vaccination. Instead, IU is offering an incentive program of weekly prizes for those who report their vaccination.
Like the 19 Indiana legislators that asked Rokita to write his opinion on whether the mandate violated state law, the plaintiffs argue the vaccine should not be required because it has Emergency Use Authorization rather than full FDA approval. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has confirmed that employers can require employees be vaccinated, even with Emergency Use Authorization.
In the complaint, the plaintiffs argue that the “unknown risks associated with COVID vaccines, particularly in those under 30, outweigh the risks to that population from the disease itself.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and clinical trials with tens of thousands of participants, COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.
The complaint likened the requirement to the Tuskegee Study, in which the U.S. Public Health Service experimented on Black men infected with syphilis without their consent and intentionally withheld available treatments.
The complaint acknowledges the difference between the mandate and the Tuskegee Study “because IU has no intent to risk harm to its students and they are not conducting a ‘study.’”
However, they argue IU’s mandate, like the Tuskegee Study, “does not provide for voluntary and informed consent to the taking of the vaccine, a fundamental tenet of medical ethics.”
While some of the plaintiffs have applied for and received religious exemptions, they object in the complaint to extra requirements for non-vaccinated students such as mask wearing in public and twice-weekly mitigation testing.
Exemptions are limited to religious exemptions, medical exemptions with documentation of an allergy to the COVID-19 vaccine components, and exemptions for those taking an 100% online program. IU is also accepting limited medical deferrals for individuals in a narrow set of documented circumstances, such as pregnancy or a recent organ transplant.