Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares announced Friday that state institutions of higher education cannot require the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance.
Miyares on Friday responded to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s request for an official advisory opinion with regard to whether public colleges and universities could require students to receive vaccinations, including booster shots, against COVID-19.
"Virginia’s public institutions of higher education are public corporations," Miyares wrote, noting that "as such, they are afforded separate corporate status but remain under control fo the General Assembly and may only exercise such powers as the General Assembly has expressly conferred or necessarily implied."
Miyares noted, though, that while the Virginia state legislature can enact a statute that requires the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person school attendance, "it has not done so."
Miyares added that "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."
The attorney general is vaccinated and has received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and he "encourages everyone to get the vaccination."
But his opinion notes that "nowhere in the Code of Virginia does the law say that Virginia public institutions can require vaccinations as a condition of enrollment or in-person attendance."
"For the reasons I 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," he wrote.
The opinion, which is an analysis of current law and does not create new law in the commonwealth, comes after Youngkin signed an executive order earlier this month rescinding a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all state employees.
Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University, Virginia Tech and the College of William & Mary, after Youngkin's move, said they would comply with the governor’s directive and would no longer require employees to be vaccinated.
The universities, though, are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated.
Private colleges and universities in Virginia are not affected by the governor’s order or Miyares' opinion.