Rep. Walsh: ‘Very questionable’ whether WSU can enforce vaccine mandate
On Wednesday, Washington State University became the latest college requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus. But could it run into legal troubles as a public university? State Rep. Jim Walsh spoke to KTTH’s Jason Rantz Show to provide some clarity.
According to the New York Times, over 100 colleges across the United States have detailed plans to implement vaccine mandates for returning students. In Washington, that list includes WSU, Pacific Lutheran University, Seattle University, and Whitman College.
For WSU — the only public university in Washington on that list so far — Rep. Walsh believes it could run into issues.
“It is not [legal], in my opinion,” he said. “It has problems on a couple of levels.”
Walsh believes that WSU’s vaccine mandate could run afoul of federal privacy laws, HIPPA, and other regulations designed to protect people’s personal health information.
“It’s very questionable whether they can enforce this as any kind of policy at a state university,” he said.
As Jason points out, K-12 schools are allowed to require vaccinations for things like measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox. Why can’t public universities do the same?
Walsh points to some key differences.
“A public university is different than a K-12 school,” he noted. “With young kids in elementary school or high school, the school district has a parental-like interest in protecting kids. At a university, the students are almost all adults, and that power that elementary schools and high schools have doesn’t apply.”
For students at private universities like PLU, Walsh believes that students should push back against mandates, calling it a “slippery slope” for their privacy rights.
“Those students should not accept a mandate to do this because whether they take the vaccine or not is a private matter,” he said. “It’s a personal health matter and they should not allow any institution to tell them that they have to do it or don’t have to.”
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