United States

Indiana University students urge Supreme Court to block vaccine mandate

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Fourth-year medical student Anna Roesler administers the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Indiana University Health, Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S., December 16, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

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Aug 6 (Reuters) - Students at Indiana University on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the school's requirement that they be vaccinated against COVID-19 in an early test of vaccine mandates amid a spike in infections and hospitalizations caused by the Delta variant.

The students filed an emergency request with the justices after lower courts rejected their bid for an injunction against the vaccine mandate while litigation continues.

Beginning this fall, the university requires that students be vaccinated unless they qualify for a religious or medical exemption. Those granted exceptions would be required to wear face masks and be tested twice weekly.

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Eight students sued in June, contending that the mandate violates their right to "bodily integrity" and due process under the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment.

The university "is treating its students as children who cannot be trusted to make mature decisions," the students said in Friday's filing, requesting that the justices act by Aug. 13.

COVID-19 vaccines have become a political flashpoint in the United States as the highly contagious Delta variant is hitting states with lower vaccination rates particularly hard.

Hundreds of colleges and universities have already mandated the COVID-19 vaccine, as have some private employers. The students' case presents one of the first challenges to the legality of these mandates.

In July, U.S. District Court Judge Damon Leichty in South Bend, Indiana, rebuffed the students, finding that the university's policy "isn't forced vaccination."

On Aug. 2 the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also refused to bar the mandate, noting that "vaccination requirements, like other public-health measures, have been common in this nation."

The appeals court added: "A university will have trouble operating when each student fears that everyone else may be spreading disease."

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Reporting by Andrew Chung Editing by Mark Potter

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