California COVID-19 vaccine mandate lawsuit sees new life

A California lawsuit suing the state over a COVID-era vaccine mandate received new life on Friday after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit targeted Los Angeles schools that imposed a vaccine mandate on its workers. Attorneys for the schools had argued that the lawsuit was moot given the end of the mandate in 2023. The Ninth Circuit disagreed, ruling 2-1 that the workers could move forward with the case.

“The Los Angeles Unified School District’s pattern of withdrawing and then reinstating its vaccination policies was enough to keep this case alive,” the court wrote. “The record supported a strong inference that LAUSD waited to see how the oral argument in this court proceeded before determining whether to maintain the Policy or to go forward with a pre-prepared repeal option.”

“LAUSD expressly reserved the option to again consider imposing a vaccine mandate. Accordingly, LAUSD has not carried its heavy burden to show that there is no reasonable possibility that it will again revert to imposing a similar policy,” the ruling continued.

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Critically, the court recognized the plaintiffs “plausibly alleged” that the vaccine for COVID-19 “does not effectively ‘prevent the spread'” of the disease, rather it merely mitigates symptoms for those who contract it. Therefore, the court said, there is an argument to be made that there is no legal basis for forcing workers to take the vaccine against their will.

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The ruling comes roughly a year after California reversed course on a vaccine mandate for students. That move came as part of a wider rollback of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s expansive COVID-19 restrictions.

California was the first state to issue a statewide stay-at-home order during the pandemic.

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Several California parents also sued last year over a state law that eliminated religious exemptions for school-mandated vaccines. The federal lawsuit brought by Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty, challenged SB 277, argues that the legislation restricting religious exemptions violates the constitutional rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children.

“California cannot demonstrate that religiously exempt students pose a greater risk than secularly exempt students,” the complaint said. “The exempt unvaccinated children under SB 277 are still free to sweat in weekend sports leagues together, participate in public extracurricular activities, and sit through hours of services at churches and synagogues.”

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report

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