The Supreme Court declined to overturn Indiana University’s demand that all students obtain the COVID-19 vaccine before beginning classes in the fall semester on Thursday.
The order was announced unilaterally by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who handles emergency petitions from Indiana, and denied the plea by eight Indiana students to halt the vaccine mandate.
Barrett did not send the case to the other justices and provided no explanation for his decision.
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.
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.”
They filed the emergency appeal to the Supreme Court last week after two lower federal courts rejected the petition.
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.
“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.”