From a political perspective. there is no issue more timely or prevalent than the issue of vaccine mandates. Since the emergence of three usable COVID-19 vaccines in the United States, there has been monstrous pushback to any effort to require such mandat
Indiana University Challenge Spurred
The latest challenge was as a result of an Indiana University mandate that all students have to get vaccinated before appearing on campus for the upcoming Fall Semester. Eight students filed an emergency order with Justice Amy Comey Barrett, as Justice Comey Barrett is the Justice for that region of the country. However, she denied the order. No judges dissented, which likely would have happened if there was disagreement, likely indicating a unanimous agreement.
This is clearly not the same as a formal ruling in favor of such a mandate, nor is it precedent-setting. However, it would seem to clearly indicate that the Supreme Court has no interest in addressing the legality of vaccine mandates as it comes to schools, appearing to prefer to let past precedent and lower court rulings stand. If this is their desire, those rulings have favored such mandates, making it appear likely that continued use of vaccine mandates - at least as has been challenged thus far - will likely be upheld.
By denying this emergency order, the Court upheld a ruling of a federal judge who had previously ruled that the requirement was legal.
Other Court Rulings Have Favored Mandates
While this is the first case that the Supreme Court has dealt with that specifically addressed vaccine mandates and schools, it is not the first court ruling that has been issued surrounding COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
This was the first court case to make its way to the Supreme Court. However, other rulings have also favored businesses when it comes to vaccine mandates. For example, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings sued the state of Florida - one of its most common ports - for the state's ban on any so-called "vaccine passport" system that would require passengers to prove their vaccination status. A judge recently granted the Cruise Line an injunction, stopping Florida from enforcing the law, although more appeals are pending.
Other cases involved a challenge by employees who had been fired by Houston Methodist Hospital. After giving employees time to get vaccinated, Houston Methodist fired workers who refused to do so. 117 sued the Hospital, saying that the firing was a violation of their rights. However, U.D. District Judge Lynn Hughes ruled against the employees, saying that the ruling did not violate Texas law. That case is now being appealed.
A Long History of Vaccine Mandates
Vaccine mandates, of course, are nothing new. Countless schools and other institutions have enacted such mandates, with limited exemptions, usually centered around a medical need or religious choices. And, just like with this mandate, vaccine mandates have been legally challenged in the past. However, those mandates have typically been turned away.
The first challenge to United States vaccine laws occurred in Jacobson v. Massachusetts(1905), when the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts did have the right to fine city residents who refused to be vaccinated against smallpox. The Court ruled that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had the power to make such a policy and that doing so was a legitimate use of the Commonwealth's police power. However, the ruling was not unlimited, ruling that medical exemptions must be considered as part of any vaccine mandate.
A similar case - Zucht v. King (1922) - relied on the Jacobson precedent when it unanimously said that vaccine mandates for schools were legal. Rulings since 2002 have continued to uphold such mandates.
Given the Supreme Court's denial of an emergency order, lower court rulings, and the approval of vaccines by the Court in past rulings, it appears that the legality of vaccine mandates will likely remain uncontested - at least, for now.
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