Judge rules against natural immunity claim challenging COVID-19 shot mandate

A federal judge on Friday denied a request to block an employer’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on the basis of natural immunity.

Jeanna Norris, who works at Michigan State University, challenged the school’s vaccine requirement on the basis that she had COVID-19 and recovered. After having two antibody tests showing her immunity, her doctor instructed her not to get a vaccine at this time.

Still, she faces termination for not complying with Michigan State University’s requirement that all staff and students be vaccinated by Aug. 31 unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

She asked a court to intervene and block the school’s mandate, but U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney, a Bush appointee, declined to do so.

He said the vaccine mandate doesn’t violate Ms. Norris’ fundamental rights and that Supreme Court precedent in Jacobson v. Massachusetts from 1905 gives states a right to require vaccinations.

“This Court must apply the law from the Supreme Court: Jacobson essentially applied rational basis review and found that the vaccine mandate was rational in ‘protect[ing] the public health and public safety,’” the judge wrote. “The Court cannot ignore this binding precedent.”

The New Civil Liberties Alliance, which represented Ms. Norris, said it’s considering its next legal steps.

“Ms. Norris courageously brought this lawsuit to vindicate the constitutional rights of individuals with naturally acquired immunity to COVID-19 who are subject to irrational vaccine mandates. While we are disappointed by today’s order, we are committed to fighting for the rights of COVID-recovered Americans to decline a medically unnecessary vaccine without having to sacrifice their livelihoods,” said Jenin Younes, a counsel with the civil liberties alliance.

A spokesperson from Michigan State University did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is not the first time a judge has ruled against the natural immunity argument. Some Republican lawmakers say natural immunity is just as robust as immunity from vaccinations.

Earlier this month, a federal judge in California ruled against a professor who argued that his natural immunity should make him exempt from the University of California’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

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