INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana University is reconsidering the verification process of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
This comes after Attorney General Todd Rokita released an advisory opinion saying IU’s verification method breaks the law.
IU is not going to stop requiring the vaccine, even though a number of Republican lawmakers are pushing for it.
On Thursday, 35 Indiana Senate Republicans joined 19 Indiana House Representatives in their efforts to stop IU’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
The Republican Caucus sent a letter to IU explaining how the mandate would, “Force young Americans—statistically the lowest at-risk demographic—into a decision based on economics rather than health and individual responsibility.”
The letter expressed how many Hoosiers have shared their concerns with lawmakers and don’t want their tax dollars involved in this requirement.
“Stick to teaching, stay in your lane,” said State Rep. Jim Lucas. “If they want to encourage it, fine.”
State Rep. Lucas wrote a letter to the governor that was signed by 18 other Indiana representatives earlier this week. It asks for an executive order banning state university vaccine requirements like the one at IU.
“Governor Holcomb has been using executive powers, in my opinion, too much in the last year,” said Lucas. “But if those are the rules we are playing by at this time, then let’s use them to our advantage.”
Lucas said this is something that could very well head to the courts, but that could take years. Since lawmakers are recessed, not adjourned due to redistricting in the fall, they could technically address university vaccine mandates now too.
“To me, that’s the nuclear option, and I hope it doesn’t get that far,” said Lucas.
Attorney General Rokita believes public universities are legally allowed to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine right now but cannot require proof in the form of a document. That’s because he said public universities like IU fall under Indiana’s new law banning government-issued COVID-19 vaccine passports.
“Although we disagree with that portion of his opinion, we will further consider our process for verifying the requirement,” said IU Spokesperson Chuck Carney.
IU is keeping the mandate. Carney said it’s the only way the university can confidently offer a safe, traditional college experience.
“The science is clear that we need a higher rate of immunity within our IU community. With the new requirement, most restrictions on masking and physical distancing this fall, as outlined in the fall health and safety guidelines announced this week, can be lifted. Requiring the vaccine is the best and fastest way to make sure that happens,” said Carney.
Rep. Lucas said public universities should not be getting into individual health care.
“From what I understand, IU also requires the flu shot. Would you want that to be no longer a mandate either?” asked reporter Kayla Sullivan.
“I would love for us to visit all of these vaccines and requirements,” said Lucas.
He said he plans to propose future legislation on this topic.
We’ve reached out to Governor Eric Holcomb for response to Lucas’ letter and the issue of COVID-19 vaccine mandates at public universities but have yet to hear back.