A student at UMass Boston and one at UMass Lowell yesterday sued over their schools' requirements they get vaccinated against Covid-19 or be barred from campus this fall, saying the requirement violates their constitutional rights and that it's just not fair that they have to get what they consider risky shots when professors don't, especially since, they claim, masks and social distancing are just as good as shots.
In their suit, filed in Boston federal court, UMass Boston student Cora Cluett and UMass Lowell student Hunter Harris are asking a judge to declare the requirements unconstitutional and to make the schools let them return to campus in September with their arms unblemished from any needle marks.
The suit is at least the second filed by a local student who didn't want a shot. Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a New England Law student's suit, ruling the student had agreed upon enrollment to follow school policies in general and that he had signed a form agreeing to follow the school's Covid-19 policies in particular.
The UMass students charge that making them get shots violates their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process, in part because "plaintiffs have an individual, fundamental right to refuse medical treatment," in part because the state itself has not mandated vaccinations for students.
Cluett also alleges her First Amendment religious rights are being violated because she "has a sincerely held religious belief that precludes her from taking the mandated vaccine."
Cluett is Catholic and the suit says UMass Boston rejected her claim after an administrator determined that the Catholic Church has no prohibitions against Covid-19 shots. In fact, the church, starting with Pope Francis, has repeatedly urged members to get vaccinated; the Vatican even turned a papal-audience hall into a vaccination clinic. The suit does not specify which specific Catholic tenets Cluett feels the vaccine violates.
Cluett would transfer if she could, but she has a large scholarship, which effectively precludes her from doing so, and besides, all the other public universities in the state also mandate Covid-19 shots, so she has no place to transfer to, the suit continues.
Judges have upheld other Covid-19 restrictions and requirements based on a 1905 Supreme Court decision involving a smallpox outbreak in Cambridge, in which the court ruled that public-health emergencies give officials the right to enact orders they might not otherwise be allowed to. But the students' attorney, Ryan McClane of Feeding Hills, says that case does not apply here because neither the governor nor the state Department of Public Health have mandated shots for students, and the schools have no such authority. Also:
The Supreme Court in Jacobson made its determination based significantly on the settled medical science regarding the smallpox vaccinations from “nearly a century” of its use, and in the instant case, we are dealing with three drugs that have been in existence less than one year and are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Yes, sure, the schools require shots for other illnesses, but those are mandated by the state Department of Public Health, not the schools, the complaint states.
The complaint then alleges that the vaccines can kill people, based on reports from a federal database that itself cautions:
VAERS reports alone cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to an adverse event or illness. The reports may contain information that is incomplete, inaccurate, coincidental, or unverifiable. In large part, reports to VAERS are voluntary, which means they are subject to biases. This creates specific limitations on how the data can be used scientifically.
The complaint, however, is not a scientific paper and so continues that both schools have low rates of Covid-19, and that "mask wearing, temperature checks and self-reporting," as required for students who are given exemptions to vaccination, "are purportedly effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19," so the students shouldn't be forced to get a shot on pain of not being allowed to take classes this fall.
Complete complaint (1.5M PDF).