Four University of Cincinnati students have filed a lawsuit claiming the university’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate is discriminatory and are seeking to halt the rule.
The lawsuit, filed last month in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, argues the mandate violates multiple state laws, as well as the Ohio Constitution by infringing on students’ rights to refuse medical treatment.
Benjamin Lipp, Danielle Seymore, Katelyn Verbarg and Nicholai Lekson are the students who brought the suit against UC, according to court documents. They’re asking the court to declare the mandate void and issue an injunction prohibiting UC officials from enforcing it.
UC implemented its vaccine mandate in September following the U.S. Food and Drug administration giving full approval to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and in response to a rising number of COVID-19 cases.
According to the university’s website, any World Health Organization-endorsed vaccines, such as Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, fulfill the requirement, though boosters may be required in the future.
Unvaccinated students must undergo weekly COVID-19 testing, the website states. Students who aren’t in compliance with the mandate by the end of spring semester will be subject to disciplinary action including “separation from the university.”
Documents say Lipp, Seymore and Verbarg have obtained exemptions from the mandate, while Lekson has met the vaccination requirement.
UC officials lack authority under state law to enforce such a mandate, the lawsuit states. The suit also claims the mandate is coercive and violates a provision of House Bill 244 that prohibits public universities from discriminating against people who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine fully approved by the FDA.
However, that law is now considered largely moot following the approval of the Pfizer vaccine.
A university spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to an email requesting comment. But UC’s website says the university has been requiring vaccinations for students and employees for years.
“Vaccination has been one of the mainstays of public health for decades, and the COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be the most important tool to fight this deadly pandemic,” the website reads.
Other public universities in Ohio with COVID-19 vaccine requirements include Miami University, Ohio State University and Ohio University.
The case is set to go before Common Pleas Judge Leslie Ghiz. An initial case management conference is scheduled for March 15 at 2 p.m.