Federal judge rules against COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Louisiana medical school

A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday that stops Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Louisiana from imposing a COVID vaccine mandate on students in order to enroll.

U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty of the Monroe division of the Western District of Louisiana ruled in favor of Rachel Lynn Magliulo, Matthew Shea Willis, and Kirsten Willis Hall. All three are second-year students at the college. The decision is the latest twist in a dispute involving several students, the private medical college operating at the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Landry actively opposes vaccine mandates, while VCOM asserts its mandatory vaccination policy is critical to keeping students, staff and patients safe. “Even during a pandemic, we must protect the rights of our citizens,” Landry said immediately after the ruling. “I’m pleased with the court’s decision and glad these students can focus on what’s important; their education.”

Landry first approached the school when three students said they were retaliated against for refusing COVID-19 vaccinations. “These complaints have included recordings of conversations with VCOM staff engaging in harassing and coercive conduct targeting students who have exercised their right to opt-out of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine,” Landry said in July.

The school rejected all accusations and maintains it has acted appropriately regarding health and legal obligations. “The intention of VCOM’s coronavirus vaccine policy, is and always has been the safety of our students, the safety of our employees and workplace, as well as the safety of the patients being cared for by our students, faculty and staff,” VCOM said in an emailed statement.

The school granted the students religious exemptions after they filed a federal lawsuit, along with the attorney general, Aug. 4. Landry later backed out after Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana questioned the state’s standing.

The students continued their lawsuit, in part, because of restrictions that came with the religious exemptions, such as required vaccine education trainings, a prohibition on activities involving patients and only working with student lab partners who agree to work with unvaccinated students.



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