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UC requires COVID vaccinations; Indiana University mandate is upheld

A federal judge is allowing Indiana University to continue with its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all students and employees, a ruling that comes days after the University of California became the largest public university system in the nation to announce it would require vaccinations this fall for all even without full federal approval.

The ruling from a judge in South Bend rejected a request from eight students who sought to block the requirement while they pursued a lawsuit alleging that the university’s policy violated their constitutional rights and the state’s new law banning vaccine passports.

The judge wrote in his ruling dated Sunday that evidence so far shows that the university has pursued a reasonable policy in the “legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”

The judge said the students who object to receiving the vaccine shots can seek medical and religious exemptions offered by the university, while also having the option of taking the fall semester off or attending another school.

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The university said in a statement that the ruling allows the school to focus on “a full and safe return” for the fall semester on all its campuses.

The court action comes as colleges and universities are scrambling to decide how far to push vaccination mandates, because legal questions had been raised over whether they could require vaccines without full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More than 580 campuses across the nation have issued vaccination mandates, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education tracker, including more than 60 in California, such as USC, Caltech, Stanford, Occidental, Chapman and the Claremont Colleges.

Last week, the University of California became the largest public university system to announce it would require them this fall for all students, faculty and others in order to access campus. The UC system initially said it would wait for full FDA approval but decided to move forward with the mandate after reviewing medical and scientific research on the threat of the virus and the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. In addition, the university said a vaccine requirement drew broad support from students, staff, faculty and others, although at least two employee unions are arguing that any policy to impose one is subject to negotiation.

The UC policy allows narrow exemptions for medical, religious or disability reasons and deferrals due to pregnancy. Proof of vaccination or approved exemptions must be submitted no later than two weeks before the start of fall term.

California State University has said it would require vaccinations once the FDA grants full approval of at least one of the vaccines. The Los Angeles Community College District is encouraging but not requiring them.

Times staff writer Teresa Watanabe contributed to this report.


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