WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday refused to block Indiana University’s plan to require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Barrett’s action came in response to an emergency request from eight students, and it marked the first time the high court has weighed in on a vaccine mandate.
The students said in court papers that they have “a constitutional right to bodily integrity, autonomy, and of medical treatment choice in the context of a vaccination mandate.” They wanted the high court to issue an order barring the university from enforcing the mandate. Seven of the students qualify for a religious exemption.
Similar lawsuits against student vaccine requirements have been filed in other states.
The court’s newest justice rejected the plea without even asking the university for a response or Judge Coney getting her colleagues to weigh in. Justices often act on their own in such situations when the legal question isn’t particularly close. Barrett handles emergency matters from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, which includes Indiana.
IU’s plan announced in May requires roughly 90,000 students and 40,000 employees on seven campuses to receive COVID-19 vaccinations for the fall semester.
Students who don’t comply will have their registration canceled and workers who don’t will lose their jobs. The policy does have religious and medical exemptions, but exempt students must be tested twice a week for the virus. The school recently announced that for now, everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask indoors while on campus.