Catholic College Still Requires Covid Vaccine

Although the national emergency declaration surrounding Covid-19 ended in May, this has not stopped the Jesuit-led Santa Clara University from requiring one bivalent dose for all incoming first year students.

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Although the national emergency declaration surrounding Covid-19 ended on May 11, 2023, when President Biden announced the end of all Covid-19 emergencies, this has not stopped the Jesuit-led Santa Clara University from quietly updating its Covid vaccine policy to require one bivalent dose for all incoming first year students.

On May 8th—one week after the Fall Semester enrollment deadline—at a time when deposits are already made and room reservations for campus housing are assigned, all incoming students were advised that they would be required to receive the bivalent dose—no matter how many Covid vaccines and boosters they had previously taken.   

And as in the past at Santa Clara, there were no religious exemptions allowed at the putatively Catholic university—despite the fact that the mRNA vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna utilized fetal cell line HEK293 for some of the confirmatory testing after the vaccines were developed. This line was derived from the kidney tissue taken from a fetus who was electively aborted in 1973 in the Netherlands. 

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For the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, fetal cell lines were used in the production and manufacturing stage. Because of the abortion link to the vaccine, many Catholics are morally opposed to this vaccine. Yet, this means nothing to the academic administration at Santa Clara University.

In response to the uproar from students—and a scathing social media response—Santa Clara updated its policy again on May 31st by requiring either three previously received monovalent doses or one bivalent dose for all community members. Again, Santa Clara University offers no religious exemptions and limited medical exemptions for students—even in the most extreme of circumstances.   

One of the medical exemption denials has resulted in a lawsuit. In March 2022, a lawsuit filed against Santa Clara University by Harlow Glenn, one of the student plaintiffs, claims that “she had serious adverse reactions to her primary series Covid vaccines—including an emergency room visit due to leg paralysis and abnormal bleeding—yet was mandated to receive the booster.” 

According to the complaint, Santa Clara’s campus physician, Lewis Osofsky, M.D., refused to grant Glenn a medical exemption for the required booster. Worse, Glenn alleges that Dr. Osofsky actively interfered with her doctor-patient relationship with her personal physicians by contacting her physicians to pressure them to retract their medical exemption documentation.    Glenn alleges that Dr. Osofsky actively interfered with her doctor-patient relationship with her personal physicians by contacting her physicians to pressure them to retract their medical exemption documentation. Tweet This

Attorney Lucia Sinatra, co-founder of No College Mandates, suggests in a Brownstone article that “Such aggressive tactics are nothing new for Dr. Osofsky, as he apparently employs them against patients in his private pediatric practice. Parents have complained in online reviews that Osofsky’s office forced vaccines and did not listen to their concerns. 

In an online post, one parent complained that Dr. Osofsky expelled his family from the pediatric practice—despite the fact that the family had been patients of Dr. Osofsky for more than a decade—because the parent questioned the need for his 11-year-old son to receive a meningitis shot. The bewildered parent wrote: 

…they expelled my son from this practice when I turned down his office manager’s recommendation to have my son vaccinated with Menacra against meningococcal bacteria. The final letter from her stated that “the trust between us has been broken.” I can only speculate that the trust between the doctor’s office and a pharmaceutical company or a distributor of Menacra must be more important to this office than respect for the parents’ decision…this was the first and only time I refused vaccination for either of my kids. But it was enough for the doctor to expel our family from his practice! I am not involved in the anti-vaccination movement and believe that certain vaccines are necessary; hence had my kids vaccinated against other illnesses. So, buyer beware when you choose this doc for your children, rest assured vaccination decisions will be made for you. 

[It should be noted that Dr. Osofsky’s office manager is his wife, Carol Osofsky.] 

Dr. Osofsky continues to make vaccination decisions for Santa Clara students—despite the fact that a dwindling number of colleges and universities are continuing the charade. More than 500 colleges and universities—including the faithful Catholic colleges and universities like my own academic home Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and Ave Maria University in Florida—always respected the rights of their students and never implemented the mandate to begin with. 

Lucia Sinatra has suggested that there is indeed a financial reason for the mandates in Osofsky’s office and at Santa Clara when she writes that “Blue Cross Blue Shield pays pediatricians in private practice a $40,000 bonus for every 100 patients under the age of 2 that they fully vaccinate, if at least 63 percent of the patients are fully vaccinated (including the annual flu vaccine). 

But fact checkers at Reuters claim that 

a screenshot from a 2016 list of incentives offered to Michigan healthcare providers by insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield is being shared without the context that such incentives are a common practice to promote preventive care and the insurer’s payouts to individual doctors that year were far lower than online claims suggest. 

A spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield told a Reuters reporter that while there is an incentive program offered to providers, vaccinations are not the “sole performance measure…Each of the 34 Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies sets its own value-based contracts and determines which performance measures would be taken into account for incentives.” Blue Cross Blue Shield claims that no provider could have earned $40,000 for giving vaccinations because the “maximum cap” was $9,600 per provider.

Still, a lawsuit filed by the Childrens Defense Fund also maintains that there is still a financial incentive for Santa Clara University to have mandated Covid-19 vaccinations. On June 14, 2023, they filed an appeal with the Sixth Appellate District Court alleging that 

In exchange for millions in government provided Covid-19 relief funding a number of colleges and universities, including Respondent Santa Clara University agreed to coerce their students into using experimental, emergency use authorized Covid-19 mRNA products due to the conditions imposed upon them to benefit from this governmental relief funding scheme. Rather than uphold the individual rights of their students, these academic institutions chose instead to aid the government in promoting its unscientific agenda…In this action, SCU is accused of actively engaging in this governmental scheme, violating the basic civil rights of its students and harming them immensely in the process.   

The Childrens Defense Fund complaint alleges eighteen causes of action against Santa Clara University—including violations of students’ fundamental rights to bodily autonomy, free exercise of religion, and equal protection of the law.   

It is difficult to predict whether the lawsuits against Santa Clara University will succeed, but what is certain is that Santa Clara has already paid a high price for refusing to uphold the individual rights of their students.   


  • Anne Hendershott

    Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. She is the author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications, 2020).

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