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Three Virginia Universities End Vaccine Mandate After AG’s Legal Opinion

Three large Virginia universities have ended their COVID-19 vaccine mandate following a new legal opinion by Attorney General Jason Miyares.

Miyares released the opinion on Friday that stated Virginia university campuses cannot require the mandate unless it is listed among required immunizations for higher education institutions.

Attorney General Miyares highlighted in the opinion that “as recognized in the prior opinion, ‘[t]here is no question that the General Assembly could enact a statute requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person school attendance,’” according to a statement from Miyares’ office.

“As of this writing, it has not done so. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly has amended other statutes to address pandemic-related issues,” the statement added.

“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 opinion included.

The legal opinion follows an executive directive signed by Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin on his first day in office.

Youngkin signed 11 executive orders and directives on his first day in office after being sworn in last month.

“No matter who you voted for, I pledge to be your advocate, your voice, your governor,” Youngkin said at his inauguration speech. “We stand here on January 15, 2022 filled with hope and optimism for the years ahead. This hope and optimism springs from a shared vision for the future, and also from knowing what we have been through.”

The three Virginia universities included Virginia Tech, George Mason University, and the University of Virginia.

“Given our high vaccination rate, the continued decline of the omicron variant, the Governor’s recent executive orders and directives, and the recent Attorney General’s opinion, we will now strongly encourage vaccination protocols for all Mason students, faculty, and staff, though we no longer require them,” George Mason University President Gregory Washington said in a message to the university on Monday.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands also send a message on Monday to university students and staff following the opinion.

“Last week, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares issued a legal opinion concerning vaccine requirements that reverses the preceding attorney general’s opinion upon which our vaccine policy was based. Consequently, Virginia Tech will no longer require students to be vaccinated as a condition of enrollment or in-person instruction, effective immediately,” Sands added.

University of Virginia President Jim Ryan shared a similar statement with the university community on Monday.

“Last Friday, the Virginia attorney general issued an advisory opinion indicating that public colleges and universities do not have the legal authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students as a condition of enrollment or in-person attendance,” Ryan said.

“This advisory opinion supersedes the advisory opinion from the prior attorney general, which concluded that universities do have the legal authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccines. Attorney general opinions, though they do not have the force of law the way a court ruling does, nonetheless warrant careful consideration,” he added.

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