News Story

Court: Lack of Natural Immunity Exception Doesn’t Make MSU Vaccine Mandate Irrational

Judge cites battle of the experts over vaccine efficacy vs. natural immunity

A Michigan State University employee was denied a preliminary injunction in her challenge of a university employee vaccine mandate policy. Among the challenger’s arguments was that the mandate doesn’t meet a rational basis test because it doesn’t make an exception for natural immunity obtained from having caught COVID-19 and recovered.

U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney issued the ruling on Oct. 8.

A group called the New Civil Liberties Alliance filed the class action complaint in the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan on behalf of MSU employee Jeanna Norris, who contracted COVID-19 in late 2020. She argued that having caught and beat the virus gives her a measure of natural immunity, which means she doesn’t need a vaccination.

MSU brought in an expert witness to challenge the efficacy of natural immunity. But the judge ruled that an ongoing debate over the matter did not mean the university mandate lacked a rational basis.

Judge Maloney wrote:

“The Court heard the battle of the experts, and they essentially presented that there is ongoing scientific debate about the effectiveness of naturally acquired immunity versus vaccine immunity … Put plainly, even if there is vigorous ongoing discussion about the effectiveness of natural immunity, it is rational for MSU to rely on …present federal and state guidance in creating its vaccine mandate.”

The judge wrote that MSU had relied on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “and other federal and state agencies” when creating its vaccine policy.

While explaining the legal tests a request for a preliminary injunction must overcome, Judge Maloney also stated, “There is no fundamental right to decline a vaccination,” adding “bodily autonomy has not been deemed a fundamental right.” The judge stated the plaintiff was an at-will employee and had no fundamental right to work at MSU.

Dr. Hooman Noorchashm, an immunologist and a former assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, provided expert testimony on behalf of Norris, according to Just The News.

In response to the ruling, he said:

“Ms. Jeanna Norris’ case against MSU is representative of millions of COVID-recovered and already immune Americans, who should not be coerced into getting vaccinated against their will by the state. It’s a shame to see this failure of the American medical establishment to act on robust clinical evidence and basic scientific precepts. Certainly, the Biden administration’s draconian behavior on vaccine mandates in the recently infected and naturally immune is truly unscientific and, likely, unconstitutional. But with the Norris decision, I was disheartened to see our judiciary branch’s weakness on display too. I suppose in national emergencies, reason, science and ethics fail us and fear prevails – it’s happened before in our history.”

MSU notified staff and students they would be required to be fully vaccinated by Aug. 31 or risk disciplinary action, including possible termination of employment. The policy does allow for limited medical and religious exemptions, which have long been protected under a past U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

NCLA has not stated whether it will appeal the ruling.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.