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University of Minnesota Duluth student seeks to challenge vaccine requirement

The University of Minnesota remains "confident" in its decision to enforce COVID-19 vaccination.

File: University of Minnesota Duluth
An aerial view of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus. Contributed / UMD
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DULUTH — A law firm representing a University of Minnesota Duluth student filed a lawsuit challenging the University of Minnesota's requirement that students be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 8 unless they have an approved exemption.

The 20-year-old unnamed petitioner is seeking to stop the university's enforcement of the rule on the grounds that Minnesota State Statute only allows the Minnesota Department of Health to propose new vaccines under the state's college immunization law.

The student, who's represented by Minneapolis-based CrossCastle Law Firm, tested positive for COVID-19 in November 2020 and "therefore could provide evidence of immunity against COVID-19," according to the lawsuit.

However, research has yet to show how long immunity lasts after COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges those who have been infected to still get the vaccine, as evidence shows the vaccine offers better protection than having been infected.

"Petitioner does not believe he should be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 in order to continue as a student at the university," the lawsuit said. "Accepting the COVID-19 vaccine violates petitioner’s conscientiously held, but not specifically religious, beliefs. If injunctive relief is not granted by the Court on or before October 8, 2021, petitioner will be forced to relinquish his fundamental rights and conscientious beliefs, or harm his long-term job and education prospects and change colleges."

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U of M Public Relations Director Jake Ricker said the university had not yet been served with the lawsuit and had not had the chance to review its details as of Wednesday.

"That said, we are confident in the operational decisions we made regarding vaccinations for our community. Our actions reflect the high priority we place on creating the safest, healthiest possible campus environment for our students, faculty and staff," Ricker said in a statement.

The University of Minnesota is only allowing vaccine exemptions to students who have a medical problem and a health care provider's signature and students who claim that vaccination is contrary to their religious beliefs.

Students who don't comply with the vaccine requirement will not be able to register for future classes. Employees of the University of Minnesota system were asked to attest online that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 19. Those who declined to certify must get tested every week if they're working with anyone in person.

The university isn't requiring employee vaccinations because they weren't previously covered under any vaccine requirements like students. The state's college immunization law requires any born after 1956 to be vaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria, or have legal exemption.

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