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AG Miyares says public universities cannot mandate COVID-19 vaccine for students

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2021 file photo, Virginia Republican Lt. Governor candidate Jason...
FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2021 file photo, Virginia Republican Lt. Governor candidate Jason Miyares addresses the Virginia FREE Leadership Luncheon in McLean, Va. Seeking a third term as Virginia's attorney general, Democrat Mark Herring proudly touts a progressive record that includes defending gay marriage, gun control and criminal justice reform. Miyares, Herring's opponent in next month’s elections, looks at that same record in disgust, calling it part of the “far-left monopoly that’s been happening in Richmond the last few years.” (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)(Cliff Owen | AP)
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 10:00 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 7:07 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Attorney General Jason Miyares has issued a legal opinion that Virginia state universities cannot require the COVID-19 vaccine as a general condition of students’ enrollment or in-person attendance.

In a press release, Miyares gives reasoning to his legal opinion.

“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.’ 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,” Miyares said.

Miyares adds that although the General Assembly specifically authorized public universities to assist the Department of Health and local health departments in the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, the legislation did not grant them the power to impose vaccine requirements.

In an interview with NBC12 on Friday, Attorney General Miyares addressed this legal opinion and reasoning behind issuing this by referring to this section listed in the Code of Virginia.

“Section 23.1-800 lists six very specific vaccines that you’re required to take or you’re required to have prior to attending a Virginia four-year college,” Miyares said.

Miyares believes this comes down to following the law.

“There’s a mechanism in place .The mechanism is you go through General Assembly and you change the Code of Virginia and you add it to those six vaccine that are required under the law,” he said. “I’m vaccinated, my whole family is vaccinated, and I’m boosted and I’m very pro-vaccine, but this isn’t what I say about the vaccine, this is about what the law says.”

Over the last several months, dozens of public colleges and universities in Virginia announced requirements for COVID-19 vaccines, including Virginia Commonwealth University.

NBC12 reached out to VCU about this legal opinion. A spokesperson for VCU sent us the following statement:

“We are aware of the new Attorney General opinion about COVID-19 vaccination policies for students. We are reviewing the opinion to determine how it affects VCU students, particularly those students in hospital and clinical settings.

At the end of our fall semester, more than 97 percent of faculty and staff were vaccinated and more than 95 percent of students were vaccinated. VCU is committed to supporting the health of our patients, students, employees and the communities we are proud to serve.”

VCU is also one of several public colleges removing the COVID vaccine mandate for employees following Governor Glenn Youngkin’s executive order to rescind the vaccine mandate for state employees.

At Monroe Park, VCU freshman Sara Orabi believes there should be a requirement to get the COVID-19 vaccine. If this is withdrawn, she believes there should be more virtual options available.

“I think everyone should take the vaccine because if you don’t, you can cause other people to have COVID,” she said.

“They should just do whatever they want,” said VCU freshman Mason Bowling. “You can choose to make the world a better place and get your vaccine or you can choose not to and it’s all up to you.”

To read the Attorney General’s opinion, click here.

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