(Video) Can My College Require I Get the Covid Vaccine?

Happy Friday, everybody. Hope you’re having a great week and you’re staying safe and healthy out there. And this week should be a fun one because it’s another hot button issue. It is a question that I got asked this week. Can your college or university require you to get the COVID vaccine? Certainly a big debated issue, hot issue right now. So I will do my best to tackle it.

Now, before I do, you should know that a, this is one of those it’s kind of unsettled areas of law to where I’ll give you my best interpretation of where we stand currently, but I’m sure there are lawyers out there that will tell me that I’m wrong. And then there’s going to be lawyers out there that tell me I’m absolutely right. So take what I say, as always, because you’re getting information off the internet with a grain of salt.

Second, with anything else COVID related, this sucker has a tendency to change on a daily basis. So the answer I give you today, which is the 27th of August, 2021, could be completely invalid in a week. Who knows? So, but here’s what I got.

The short answer to whether your college or university can require to get the vaccine is probably. And here’s why I say that. Colleges and universities have had the right to mandate vaccines against certain infectious diseases for a long time. And they have done. I mean, back when I went to Texas A & M, I had to give shot records that says I was immunized from measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis, that sort of thing. And they’ve been doing that forever.

And the issue of the COVID vaccine was a really big gray area until one of the vaccines, specifically the Pfizer vaccine, became FDA approved. Now that it’s FDA approved, there seems to be this willingness to go along with the fact that universities and colleges have the right to mandate their students get immunized against it.

Now, again, like I said, this is one of those things that there is active litigation going on right now that’s trying to address this issue. For example, there was a case out of Indiana where some Indiana students sued the university for requiring a COVID vaccine. They ultimately lost that lawsuit in which the Indiana District Court basically said, look, you have the choice to attend another university. And unless you have a specific religious or medical exemption, a school can mandate and require that you’re immunized. That made its way up to the Supreme Court, sort of, but it was thrown out by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who basically echoed what the district court said and said that they’re not going to hear or argue this case.

However, there’s another case out of Rutgers University that sort of tries to take that argument a step further and says, no, we can’t go to any school that we want. And I don’t know what the current status of that litigation is, but there are people challenging kind of where we stand right now.

So kind of the current state of things is that most states will or are allowed to mandate that you get the COVID vaccine to attend a university, but they have to allow exemptions for medical purposes and religious purposes. Now, there’s a small subset of states that don’t allow that religious purpose exemption. It’s very few states and I don’t know of them off the top of my head, but most states with at least a medical exemption is really the only way to get out of having to be vaccinated to attend a university.

Now, again, another kind of monkey wrench in this is this answer goes towards public universities or universities that can be considered governmental entities or governmental actors because they take government money. So purely private universities that are not funded in any way by the government, it’s a different deal, right? It’s a different answer because now they’re a private entity and just like most private entities in the United States, they are free to mandate what they want in order to gain entry into that private entity.

So again, that’s another kind of complication in this. And then on top of that, there’s the athletics angle of, well, if I’m not a student, but I want to attend a sporting event at said university, can they mandate a vaccine, if I show proof of vaccine or anything like that. And again, that’s an unclear question. I know certain schools are doing it. For example, LSU, I know just announced that to attend a football game at Tiger Stadium in the fall, you have to show proof of vaccination. Meanwhile, most schools in Texas are not doing that, right?

So, and a lot of that kind of hinges on the argument that the athletics facility, especially the football stadiums, basketball stadiums, baseball stadiums, those were all private property that are owned, fully owned by the university. And they, meaning that athletics or that athletic team does not get government money necessarily. And so they’re allowed to mandate who can and cannot enter into those premises.

So again, it’s a very, very volatile state of the law right now. Those answers are ever changing and I’m doing my best to try to keep an eye on the big updates, but it’s absolutely impossible to keep track of every single little thing that happens, given that I also try to work a full-time job.

So, I hope that helps somewhat. I know it’s slightly confusing, again, kind of for the too long, didn’t read version of this is can your college or university mandate that you get the vaccine? Probably. Maybe somebody comes back later and says that they were wrong for doing it. But by that point, you have been removed from being a student and that kind of defeats the whole purpose of wanting to go there in the first place. So the answer is probably, and then we’ll see what the law shakes out as we move forward.

As always, if you have questions about this, anything else, shoot me an email, leave a comment. I’m happy to answer any questions that I can that I get and hope you guys stay safe and have a great weekend and a wonderful week next week. And I’ll see you all next Friday.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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