Court Backs College Vaccine Mandates

This week, a federal appeals court sided with Indiana University after students argued the school's mandate violated their constitutional rights.
Posted at 1:09 PM, Aug 04, 2021

Some colleges across the country are mandating COVID-19 vaccines but not without pushback. 

This week, a federal appeals court sided with Indiana University after students argued the school's vaccine requirement, which included religious and medical exemptions, violated their constitutional rights. 

Incoming freshman Chloe Krendle said, "We think we should be able to have a choice on whether we want to get vaccinated or not." 

Ryan Hughes said, "What they don't understand is that by not being vaccinated they are forcing sickness onto other people." 

The ruling explained universities may decide what is necessary to keep other students safe in a group setting. It states, "If conditions of higher education may include surrendering property and following instructions about what to read and write, it is hard to see a greater problem with medical conditions that help all students remain safe when learning." 

Jay Wolfson is a senior associate dean at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. He said, "In states where the state does not preclude state institutions like state universities from mandating or taking aggressive action it may encourage more institutions to require masking or even to require some proof of vaccination."

Current plans vary across the country and across schools.

"Florida, Texas and California are leading the nation in new cases despite the fact that the policies and practices of those institutions differ," said Wolfson.

In Florida, lawmakers decided last spring colleges aren't allowed to require proof of vaccination. 

"We can encourage students to wear a mask and strongly advise them to get vaccinated," said Wolfson. "But we can't require it or ask them if they've been vaccinated." 

The state university system strongly recommends students get vaccinated, a similar policy to other universities in the state. 

The Governor's office stated the decision to get a vaccine will be up to individuals and that the government's role is to provide information about the safety and efficacy of vaccines; they noted the Governor has encouraged Floridians who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines to get vaccinated. 

The office stated in part: "Some Floridians may choose not to get a COVID-19 vaccination due to health, religious, or other personal reasons. Floridians have the right to medical privacy, which is why Gov. DeSantis banned invasive 'vaccine passports.' No COVID-19 vaccine is required by law. Individual vaccination records are private health information, which should not be shared by mandate. Vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and harm patient privacy.”

A survey from the University of South Florida in June found two-thirds of respondents favored mandatory vaccines for the state’s college students. 

Nova Southeastern University previously announced in April it would require vaccines, but changed that decision pointing to the new Florida law. However, it and the University of Miami are requiring staff get vaccines.