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Virginia AG: Public universities can't mandate COVID-19 vaccines

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Virginia AG: Public universities can't mandate COVID-19 vaccines
After Gov. Glenn Youngkin (pictured) asked for clarification, Virginia's Attorney General issued a written opinion Friday that finds the state can't mandate COVID-19 vaccines for the state's public colleges and universities. File Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares issued an opinion definitive Friday, saying the state can't mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students at public colleges and universities.

"I conclude that, absent any 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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The opinion came at the request of Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin for an "official advisory" on the matter. Youngkin took office Jan. 15 after upsetting his Democratic predecessor Terry McAuliffe.

Miyares acknowledged that current laws require students to be immunized "against diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, measles, German measles (rubella) and mumps prior to enrollment." But those regulations do on specifically mention COVID-19.

RELATED Order letting parents opt out of schools' COVID-19 mask mandates takes effect in Virginia

Miyares said the specific laws supersede a previous opinion by his predecessor, Mark Herring, that gave the institutions the ability to enact their own policies.

"Thus, when determining what immunizations a university may require its students to receive, as the more specific statute governing student vaccination, takes precedence over the more general authority provided to boards," wrote Miyares.

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He also acknowledged "there is no question that the General Assembly could enact a statute requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person school attendance."

RELATED Virginia school systems push back on Youngkin order lifting mask mandates

"To date, the General Assembly has not amended the specific immunizations enumerated, to include immunization for COVID-19, and boards of visitors may not exercise an implied power to require a certain vaccine when a specific statute governing vaccination excludes it," states the opinion.

Shortly after taking office, Youngkinn signed an executive order ending a statewide mask mandate for K-12 schools.

RELATED COVID-19 vaccine mandate kicks in for healthcare workers in 25 states, D.C.

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