Arizona State University (ASU) student-athletes launched a petition this month to demand that ASU reverse its COVID-19 vaccine booster mandate for student-athletes participating in away games. The school put in the mandate on January 11. As of Tuesday, the petition has over 1,800 signatures.
The petition, which was started anonymously, states in part, “In a collective and respectful agreement amongst the athletes of various sports teams at Arizona State, we are voicing our stance to fight for the right to dictate what we decide goes into our bodies regarding the COVID-19 vaccination booster shot. … We want to express that there should NOT be a forced decision to be made by us athletes that causes us to sacrifice the season and competition we come to Arizona State for.”
The authors made it very clear they are not anti-vaccine. “TO BE CLEAR AND UNDERSTOOD: WE ARE NOT NOT ANTI-VACCINATION OR ANTI- BOOSTER. We are not downplaying or denying the intended use and research behind the COVID-19 vaccination booster shot. We are simply asking for the freedom to make our own medical decisions regarding our personal health by exercising our First Amendment right to petition and voice our opinion.”
ASU may be violating the law with the mandate. Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order prohibiting mandatory vaccines, testing or face masks within public higher education on June 15, 2021. He did not change his position after the FDA fully approved one COVID-19 vaccine in September, manufactured by Pfizer (which generally isn’t the Pfizer vaccine being distributed in the U.S.)
“In order for anything to change in this area, the law would have to be changed,” said C.J. Karamargin, Ducey’s director of communications, at the time.
The Arizona Sun Times asked ASU if the school reconsider the mandate. A university spokesperson responded, “As we continue to fight the latest wave of COVID-19, Sun Devil Athletics requires that student-athletes, staff and coaches who travel for competitions be up to date with booster vaccinations. Many of our out-of-state opponents require this.” He said there are medical and religious exemptions.
Holden Weisman, an executive board member of ASU’s College Republicans United, told The Sun Times, “We are opposed to all forms of medical or health related mandates, especially when it comes to COVID-19, and this is no exception. Other than small children, young, healthy men and women are the least likely to suffer adverse effects from the virus. Let’s say that there are some adverse symptoms or effects from the booster or the vaccine down the line. Who’s going to compensate these students? Probably not the university.”
Arizona legislators are already busy this 2022 session dropping bills banning COVID-19 vaccine mandates. A Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper struck down legislation banning them last year on procedural grounds; that it was bundled into a multi-part bill violating the Arizona Constitution’s single-subject rule.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has consistently opposed the mandates. He sued the city of Phoenix over its mandate and issued a legal opinion that declared the city of Tucson’s mandate illegal. He also sued the Biden administration multiple times over its mandates.
COVID-19 vaccine mandates are being increasingly struck down by courts around the country. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate for large businesses earlier this month, affecting up to two-thirds of the U.S. workforce, 100 million people. A U.S. district court judge blocked the mandate on federal contractors last month. Another judge blocked his mandate for teachers in the Head Start preschool program.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Arizona State University Basketball” by Ron Sellers. CC BY 2.0.