Federal judge temporarily blocks mandatory flu shots for public school students in San Diego County

A federal judge temporarily blocked a requirement in San Diego County for high school students to be vaccinated against influenza, citing possible violations of the constitutional rights of students who don’t want the immunizations.

The decision, issued on Monday by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, prevents San Diego County and its supervisors from enforcing a Jan. 5 policy that requires all students enrolled in public high schools to be vaccinated against influenza.

The case was brought by students in the Sunrise Academy in Lakeside, Calif., a private school that accepts students from across the state. The policy applies to students within the county, including the 11,000 students in San Diego County public high schools.

Justice Department lawyers working for the Trump administration asked the court to overturn the ruling, saying the students do not have a First Amendment right to choose whether to be vaccinated.

They argued that the immunization mandate represented “an impermissible policy preference” that was an “usurpation of fundamental educational rights.”

As part of the challenge, students at Sunrise Academy contended that the policy violated students’ rights to free speech and expression, the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment, and the First Amendment rights of students to religious practice.

In the ruling issued on Monday, the appellate judges said the district court judge was wrong to approve the motion filed by the parents of the students challenging the policy. “We therefore hold that … the students have standing to challenge the policy in its entirety,” the judges said.

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