A Michigan State University employee is suing the school over its vaccine mandate, claiming she’s “naturally immunized” after contracting COVID-19 last year.
A 161-page complaint filed Friday in federal court by MSU administrative associate and fiscal officer Jeanna Norris, 37, seeks class-action status for other school employees who have recovered from the virus and a preliminary injunction against the university’s vaccine mandate for students and staff.
“Plaintiff has already contracted and fully recovered from COVID-19,” reads the complaint filed in US District Court for the Western District of Michigan. “As a result, she has naturally acquired immunity, confirmed unequivocally by two recent SARS-CoV-2 antibody tests.”
Norris’ immunologist, according to the filing, has told her that it’s “medically unnecessary” for her to get vaccinated now.
“Yet, if plaintiff follows her doctor’s advice and elects not to take the vaccine, she faces adverse disciplinary consequences,” the lawsuit continues. “In short, the directive is unmistakably coercive and cannot reasonably be considered anything other than an unlawful mandate.”
Given her purported immunity, MSU “cannot establish a compelling governmental interest in overriding the personal autonomy and constitutional rights” of Norris and other university employees by forcing them to get vaccinated to keep their jobs, the lawsuit claims.
MSU announced its COVID-19 directives for the upcoming fall semester in late July, instructing students, faculty and staff they needed to receive at least one vaccine dose by August 31 unless they had a religious or medical exception, according to the New Civil Liberties Alliance, which filed the lawsuit.
“Along with all too many Americans, Ms. Norris is facing an impossible dilemma: lose her job or receive a vaccine that is medically unnecessary for her,” NCLA litigation counsel Jenin Younes said in a statement.
Younes said Michigan State has placed Norris “in this position for no good reason” while citing her “robust immunity” as established in scientific literature.
“Naturally acquired immunity is at least as robust and durable as that attained through the most effective vaccines, and it is significantly more protective than some of the inferior vaccines that MSU accepts,” the lawsuit claims.
But federal and state health officials have said relying on temporary immunity after getting the virus rather than being vaccinated will not lead to a “full sense of immunity,” the Lansing State Journal reported.
Ingham County’s health officer, Linda Vail, reportedly said in May that COVID-19 post-infection immunity lasts only about 90 days.
MSU officials, meanwhile, declined to comment on the lawsuit that names university president Samuel Stanley and other administrators as defendants, the Lansing State Journal reported.
A vaccine requirement at Indiana University, another Big 10 school, has withstood legal challenges. The Supreme Court earlier this month denied hearing the case, allowing Indiana school officials to enforce its vaccination mandate, according to the newspaper.