Virginia attorney general says commonwealth colleges cannot make students get COVID-19 vaccines

Jason Miyares has introduced his inaugural opinion and in it attempts to roll back the COVID-19 vaccine requirements of Va. institutions of higher education

Updated: January 28, 2022 - 3:14pm

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Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyareson Friday issued a legal opinion stating colleges in the state cannot require their students to receive COVID-19 vaccines. 

The opinion by Miyares is just the latest challenge by new GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his administration to the concept of state-imposed vaccine mandates. 

Most private and public colleges in Virginia began instituting vaccine mandates last summer, following the point at which the jabs became widely available to all Americans.

Several high-profile legal challenges fast ensued across the country, though most courts sided with the universities.

Last April, then-Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring wrote an opinion allowing the colleges to proceed with such mandates, citing a law that gave each school the broad authority to "do what is reasonably necessary."

In announcing his opinion, his first as the state's top attorney, Miyares wrote that "state universities cannot mandate the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition for enrollment or in-person attendance." 

"There is no question that the General Assembly could enact" a law requiring vaccine mandates at schools, but it did not, Miyares wrote.

Commonwealth legislation does not afford institutions the authority to impose vaccine mandates. However, it does require that students be vaccinated against diseases including diphtheria tetanus, measles, mumps and rubella.

Virginia colleges and universities will now assess how to move forward following the opinion.

Some institutions have already stopped their formerly required vaccine and testing practices for staff and faculty following an executive order by Youngkin that ended the former administration's requirements for employees of the state.