Virginia Tech, George Mason U., the University of Virginia, and Virginia Commonwealth University announced updates in policies.
Elections have consequences.
In September, Virginia Tech disenrolled students who failed to get the COVID-19 vaccination.
Now that institution, along with two other public universities in Virginia, is dropping the vaccine requirements for their students.
Virginia’s largest public universities have dropped their Covid-19 vaccination requirement for students to attend in person or to enroll in light of last week’s legal opinion issued by state Attorney General Jason Miyares.
Virginia Tech, George Mason University, the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University announced updates in their policies for the ongoing spring semester on Monday.
Miyares’ opinion, released Friday, said state universities and colleges cannot require the Covid-19 vaccine for students unless the commonwealth’s legislature includes it among required immunizations for higher education institutions. The legal guidance has no direct consequences if it isn’t followed, but an individual who decides to sue a university for not following the guidance could use Miyares’ opinion in court, his office previously told CNN.
All of the universities changed their requirements for employees and instead “strongly” encouraged them to get vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19 after Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, signed an executive directive the day he took office rescinding the vaccine requirements for state employees.
Other institutions are making the same move.
Also rescinding vaccine mandates through statements or revisions to their websites were the University of Mary Washington and Christopher Newport, James Madison, Longwood, Norfolk State, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth and Virginia State universities.
The developments marked a sea change in pandemic policy in a state where until recently vaccination requirements had been the norm for students on public university campuses, with the vast majority complying. The changes are especially striking because they come in the middle of the academic year, as universities are seeking to reestablish operating routines amid the ongoing public health challenge.
In his opinion, Virginia’s Attorney General noted the legislature actually had to create a law requiring vaccination for the students…as is the case for other diseases.
Miyares noted that while the state legislature has enacted laws requiring immunizations for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, German measles and mumps before students can enroll in a college or university, it has not passed a law requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for enrollment.
“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,” Miyares wrote.
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