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19 GOP lawmakers urge Gov. Holcomb to block IU's COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Posted at 6:14 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 11:00:09-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Nineteen Republican lawmakers are urging Gov. Eric Holcomb to block Indiana University from requiring students, staff and faculty to get a COVID-19 vaccine before classes resume this fall.

“We urge you to use your authority to prohibit state universities from mandating vaccines that do not have full FDA approval,” the House members said in the letter drafted by Rep. Jim Lucas, R- Seymour.

Last week, IU President Michael A. McRobbie announced that the university is requiring everyone who works at or attends the school to be fully vaccinated. The vaccinations are necessary, McRobbie said, so the campuses can return to in-person classes and “mostly normal operations.”

McRobbie, Michael.PNG
IU President Michael McRobbie.

Students who refuse to get a vaccine will have their classes canceled. Faculty and staff who refuse will "no longer be employed" by IU, the university said.

Lucas posted the letter Tuesday on Facebook and said he’s asking Holcomb “to stop this madness!”

Holcomb was traveling to Isreal on Tuesday. WRTV has asked his spokesperson for a response.

The lawmakers in their letter acknowledge that COVID-19 is real and credit the work of health care professionals who have battled the pandemic over the last year.

“However, enforcing a mandate that students and faculty accept a vaccine that does not have full FDA approval is unconscionable,” the letter states.

The vaccines have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use to fight the global pandemic, but still underwent a rigorous testing process.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Millions of Americans have been vaccinated “under the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history,” the CDC said on its website.

More than 273 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given to Americans from Dec. 14 to May 17. There have been just 4,647 reported deaths (0.0017 percent), the CDC said.

The letter was signed by Lucas, Beau Baird, Stephen Bartels, Martin Carbaugh, Sean Eberhart, Bob Heaton, Matt Hostettler, John. Jacob, Chris Judy, Cindy Ledbetter, Shane Lindauer, Chris May, Peggy Mayfield, Bob Morris, Curt Nisly, J.D. Prescott, Hal Slager, Heth VanNatter and Denny Zent.

Chuck Carney, Director of Media Relations for Indiana University, responded to the letter on Tuesday. He says the school was assured by a state lawmaker that public colleges and universities were not included in the ban on "vaccine passports."

“Indiana University shares the same goal as our faculty, staff and students in seeking a return to a more normal fall semester, with full attendance for in-person classes, athletic and other events, and social activities without masking and social distancing.

If we hope to do this while continuing to avoid large outbreaks, the science is clear that we need a much higher rate of immunity within our IU community. The vaccine is the only way to make sure that happens by the time students return. The policy mandating the vaccine reiterates that we are not requiring a vaccine "passport"; with everyone vaccinated, that would be unnecessary.

HB1405, which passed the Indiana General Assembly's recently concluded session, did not include public universities in its definition of governmental entities. As co-author of the Indiana vaccine passport ban legislation, State Rep. Chris Campbell said state universities and colleges are not covered under the bill. She added that "they know what they need in their environment to keep others safe."

We are confident this is the best policy for our campuses, utilizing vaccines that are authorized by the WHO, the FDA and a federal Scientific Advisory panel under Emergency Use Authorization. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also confirmed in guidance that employers can require employees be vaccinated. We will continue to follow Indiana law and provide religious and medical exemptions as warranted, in keeping with policy for the six other vaccinations required by state law on our campuses.

Our focus remains on the safety and well-being of our IU community.”