COVID Vaccine Mandate Update: Another Judge Rules Against Natural Immunity Claim

October 10, 2021

On Friday, a federal judge ruled against a Michigan State University employee who challenged the school’s vaccine requirement based on the fact that she previously had COVID-19 and recovered. Jeanna Norris asked the court to intervene to block the university’s requirement that all students and staff receive a vaccine by Aug. 31, 2021 unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

Norris argued that her doctor had instructed her not to get the vaccine due to two antibody tests indicating her natural immunity. However, U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney declined to intervene, saying the school’s vaccine mandate does not violate Norris’ fundamental rights and citing Supreme Court precedent in Jacobson v. Massachusetts.

“Jacobson…found that the vaccine mandate was rational in ‘protect[ing] the public health and public safety,’ ” wrote Judge Maloney. “The Court cannot ignore this binding precedent.”

Norris is being represented by the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which said it is now considering next legal steps.

Similar Ruling Against Natural Immunity in California

The ruling follows a similar decision earlier this month by a federal judge in California against a University of California professor who said his natural immunity should make him exempt from receiving the vaccine.

Ohio Bill Would Expand Mandate Exemptions to Include Natural Immunity

Last week, Ohio lawmakers listened to public testimony on a bill that would limit COVID vaccine mandates and expand exemptions. HB 435 would allow religious, medical or natural immunity exemptions to vaccine mandates. Informal hearings are expected to continue next week.

Cleveland Clinic Study: No Previously Infected Unvaccinated Employees Were Reinfected

In June, Cleveland Clinic released a study showing that 99.3% of infections among employees between December and May occurred among those who were not vaccinated and not previously infected. In that time period, the study found COVID-19 did not occur among any of the 2,579 individuals who had previously been infected, including more than half (1,359) who were unvaccinated.

KJK will continue to monitor vaccine mandate-related developments. If you have questions about the mandates and how they affect you or your workplace, contact Labor & Employment Chair Rob Gilmore at rsg@kjk.com or 216.736.7240.

Additionally, you can download our recent webinar, Workplace Vaccine Mandates: What Employers Need to Know, at this link.