News Story

MSU strays from CDC guidelines, will require COVID vaccinations again in 2022-23

CDC says people who have had COVID have some immunity against severe illness

Michigan State University says it will continue to require COVID-19 vaccinations for students, staff and faculty, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines that say natural immunity has some value.

In an Aug. 11 document, the CDC says that people who “have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.”

When MSU Deputy Spokesperson Dan Olsen was asked if the university will drop its mandate in light of the new CDC recommendations, he said:

The university will continue with its vaccination and booster mandate for students, faculty and staff. Results from a recent study involving MSU researchers indicates colleges and universities with a COVID-19 vaccine requirement significantly cut infection rates and deaths last year. It is clear our COVID-19 mitigation efforts have worked and have allowed the university to continue in-person classes and activities safely while also protecting our community.

We can understand there are instances where someone may not be able to be vaccinated because of certain medical or religious reasons. Students, faculty and staff are able to request those exemptions online.

MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. first announced the vaccination requirement Aug. 5, 2021.

In that letter, Stanley cited CDC data as the reason for the mandate. Stanley cited the CDC again in December 2021 when he announced that vaccinations would still be required.

“As many of you know, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month strengthened its COVID-19 vaccine recommendations and is now strongly recommending that everyone 16 and older receive a booster shot,” Stanley said. “This guidance, coupled with the fact that the Omicron variant has been found in Michigan and is likely at MSU, has led me to this decision.”

Michigan State University was sued last year by Jeanna Norris, one of its employees, who asked for an exemption on the grounds that she had natural immunity after contracting the illness the month before. MSU denied her request, and the New Civil Liberties Alliance sued on her behalf and that of two other employees. The Detroit News reported that Norris is still working at MSU, on a religious exemption.

On Oct. 8, 2021, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney denied Norris’ request for an injunction, writing that MSU had met the rational basis test for having a mandate.

Maloney observed that the dispute involved conflicting experts, and deferred to MSU. 

The New Civil Liberties Alliance has filed an appeal with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case is ongoing.

Michigan Capitol Confidential asked a university representative if MSU will accept exemptions for natural immunity. It has not received a response.

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.