Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected a challenge brought to the Supreme Court on Thursday contesting Indiana University’s requirement that students receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to attend classes in the fall semester.
A group of eight Indiana University students asked the court to issue an emergency order blocking the school’s requirement, arguing their objection to getting the vaccine is “based on legitimate concerns,” including pre-existing medical conditions and potential risks associated with the vaccine, according to NBC News.
“Protection of others does not relieve our society from the central canon of medical ethics requiring voluntary and informed consent,” the students’ attorneys wrote in an emergency petition filed with the court.
Barrett, who has jurisdiction over emergency appeals brought from Indiana, made the decision to block the challenge unilaterally and without referring the matter to the full court. It was the first time the nation’s highest court was asked to weigh in on the legality of a vaccine requirement, according to NBC News.
The application was submitted to Barrett because she manages emergency appeals from the 7th Circuit, which includes Indiana. #SCOTUS
— Kevin Daley 🏛 (@KevinDaleyDC) August 12, 2021
Indiana University’s website states it will require students and faculty members to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by the start of the fall semester Aug. 23 or get tested weekly until they receive the vaccine. But students can request a religious, ethical or medical exemption pending approval from the school.
A federal judge in Indiana had previously declined to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the vaccine requirement in July, disagreeing with the students that the school’s vaccine requirement violated their constitutional rights and state law.
A Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling earlier in August concurred with the Indiana judge, and noted the Supreme Court had ruled in 1905 that states could require all members of the public to be vaccinated against smallpox. The appeals court said Indiana University’s requirement was less stringent because it allowed for exemptions for students who objected. (RELATED: Here’s How The Government Could Implement Legal Vaccine Mandates)
More than 720 colleges and universities across the country now require students to be vaccinated in order to attend classes, according to a tally kept by The Chronicle of Higher Education. A growing number of companies and even the U.S. military have introduced vaccine requirements as well.