Virginia colleges can impose vaccine requirement, AG says

Posted at 12:36 PM, Apr 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 08:35:22-04

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia’s attorney general says the state’s colleges and universities can require students to get the COVID-19 vaccine before being allowed to attend in-person classes and activities.

The advisory opinion released Monday by Attorney General Mark Herring came in response to a request from Del. Mark Keam, a Democrat from Fairfax County.

Herring noted in his opinion that there is no federal law prohibiting Virginia colleges and universities from imposing a vaccine requirement. He also said the boards of visitors of Virginia’s institutions of higher education have been granted broad authority by the General Assembly to implement policies and regulations to protect the safety and welfare of students.

At the same time, Herring warned that imposing a vaccine requirement is “not without complications,” and that schools should be prepared to make accommodations for medical and religious reasons.

At VCU, a group of freshman has mixed reaction as to whether they plan to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

"I’m definitely thinking about it, like I’m waiting maybe a little longer to see what the effects are and how people respond to it," said VCU student, Izzy Irwin.

But the idea that their return to campus in the fall could be contingent upon getting the vaccine-
Isn’t sitting well.
VCU student, Tyler Spaulding, said, “It should always be a choice what happens to your own body. I believe it should be strongly urged, but I don’t necessarily feel it should be forced.”

“We also don’t know the long term affects of the vaccine, and we’re all like young college students so we don’t know how it’s going to affect us," said VCU student, Zoe Cann.

Last week, University of Maryland System officials announced that students, faculty, and staff returning to campuses in the fall must be vaccinated but that the system will allow exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

The UMS system includes 12 universities and three regional higher education centers serving about 135,000 undergraduate and about 41,000 graduate students.

Maryland’s announcement came one day after the University of California system and the California State University system said they intend to require vaccines in the fall.