Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, answers questions from the press on April 22 in Indianapolis. Photo by Whitney Downard | CNHI Statehouse Reporter
Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, answers questions from the press on April 22 in Indianapolis. Photo by Whitney Downard | CNHI Statehouse Reporter
INDIANAPOLIS — More than 30 Indiana Senate Republicans joined the growing list of politicians calling for Indiana University to reverse course and rescind its COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students and staff, saying they had “grave concerns.”

“This heavy-handed mandate goes against many of the liberties on which our founders built our democratic republic,” the letter, signed by lawmakers and addressed to IU President Michael McRobbie, said.

“Furthermore, it would force young Americans — statistically the lowest atrisk demographic — into a decision based on economics rather than health and individual responsibility.”

On Friday, Indiana University announced the requirement for the fall semester for its seven campuses, saying it would allow the university to lift most masking and physical distancing restrictions.

“The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorized by the FDA are extremely safe and effective,” Lana Dbeibo, IU’s director of vaccine initiatives for IU’s Medical Response Team, said in a released statement.

“There are very, very few medical reasons a person would not be able to receive this vaccine.”

IU said there would be an exemption request process but it would be “strictly limited” to medical exemptions and religious exemptions.

The 35 Senate Republicans noted that none of the three vaccines had full federal approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but rather emergency-use authorization, a lower regulatory standard. Just four Senate Republicans didn’t include their signatures on the letter.

During the 2021 session, lawmakers passed House Enrolled Act 1405, which prohibits government bodies from creating or requiring vaccine passports. However, some disagree whether the taxpayer-funded school counts as a government body and legislators didn’t clarify when drafting the hastily-written provision as it passed in the final days of the April session.

The letter, signed by Senate Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, runs counter to earlier statements from Bray. According to The Associated Press, Bray said he didn’t believe the act applied to public universities or K-12 schools – both of which already have the power to require vaccines.

“I looked at it as state, county, local governments,” Bray told The Associated Press.

Earlier this week, 19 House Republicans and Attorney General Todd Rokita issued statements against the university’s mandate. Rokita went further, calling the move illegal because of HEA 1405.

“(IU) unquestionably violates the new law by requiring its students, faculty and staff to show proof of immunization as a condition of continued attendance or employment,” Rokita said in the advisory opinion, which is non-binding.

 

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