Jan 28, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Virginia AG says public colleges can't mandate COVID vaccines

Jason Miyares, Virginia's new attorney general, being sworn in in Richmond on Jan. 15.

Jason Miyares, Virginia's new attorney general, being sworn in in Richmond on Jan. 15. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Virginia's new Republican attorney general said Friday that public colleges in the state can't mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students as a requirement for admission or in-person attendance.

Why it matters: State Attorney General Jason Miyares' ruling came from a requested review of the mandate by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who promised to end the state's mask mandate and vaccination requirements during his campaign for governor.

Though Virginia schools require students to be vaccinated against other diseases, such as diphtheria or tetanus, Miyares said those requirements were passed by Virginia's General Assembly.

  • In passing those requirements, the General Assembly gave public colleges the power to enforce them.
  • Since the General Assembly has not passed a coronavirus vaccine requirement for students, the attorney general said public colleges don't have the power to mandate or enforce such a requirement.

What they're saying: "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 said.

  • He said that the state of emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic did not expend the powers of entities "that are expressly subject to the control of the General Assembly."
  • "Notably, the authority to require immunization during a public health emergency belongs to the State Health Commissioner."

The big picture: The University of Virginia, George Mason University and at least five other Virginia campuses recently announced that they would end their vaccine requirements for their employees after a separate directive from Youngkin, the Washington Post reports.

Go deeper: Virginia schools push back as Youngkin's mask opt-out kicks in

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