TUESDAY, Aug. 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Indiana University can mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees, a Chicago-based federal appeals court ruled Monday.
The decision upheld an Indiana district court judge's ruling that the school was acting reasonably "in pursuing public health and safety for its campus communities," the Associated Press reported.
The legal challenge to the university's vaccination requirements was brought by eight students who claimed their constitutional rights would be violated by being forced to receive unwanted medical treatment.
Monday's ruling is the highest court decision in the country to date about college immunization rules, the AP reported.
The policy makes vaccination a condition of attending the university, and students who don't want to get vaccinated can also seek "ample educational opportunities" elsewhere, according to the appeals court ruling. Still, the vaccination policy allows exemptions on religious and medical grounds, which the court said provides constitutional accommodations for those who qualify.
University spokesman Chuck Carney said more than 80% of students have already reported receiving at least one vaccine dose, the AP said.
"Once again, the court has affirmed our legitimate public health interest in assuring the safety of our students, faculty and staff and we are excited to welcome our community back for the fall semester," the university said in a statement, the AP reported.
James Bopp, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the rulings. Similar lawsuits have been filed against the University of Connecticut and the California State University system, the AP reported.
Bopp argued that COVID vaccine requirements violate students' rights to "bodily autonomy" and that the COVID vaccines differ from other immunizations often required for college students, such as for measles and meningitis, because of their newness and the lower risks that younger adults have of suffering from severe bouts of COVID-19, the AP reported.
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on COVID vaccines.