Newly elected Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares issued his legal opinion on Friday at the request of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, stating that the state’s public colleges and universities can’t mandate COVID-19 vaccines for their students.
According to AG Miyares, Virginia’s state colleges and universities don’t have the authority to require students to get vaccinated when enrolling or attending in-person classes.
“For the reasons stated herein, I conclude that, absent specific authority conferred by the General Assembly, public institutions of higher education in Virginia may not require vaccination against COVID- 19 as a general condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance,” AG Miyares wrote.
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Miyares argues that colleges and universities don’t have the authority to require student vaccinations because state lawmakers have not passed legislation specifically mandating them.
“Although the General Assembly specifically authorized public institutions of higher education to assist the Department of Health and local health departments in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, the legislation did not grant such institutions power to impose vaccine requirements,” Miyares wrote.
That opinion goes against the position of Miyares’ predecessor Democrat Mark Herring.
Last April, Herring said boards of visitors of Virginia’s higher education institutions have been granted broad authority by the General Assembly to implement policies and regulations to protect the safety and welfare of students.
Herring also noted that there is no federal law prohibiting Virginia colleges and universities from imposing a vaccine requirement.
Miyares wrote Herring “failed to consider” Virginia Code 23.1-800 listing specific immunizations required of students prior to enrollment.
The list does not include COVID-19 vaccines, and Miyares argues, “the more specific statute governing student vaccination, takes precedence over the more general authority provided to boards.”