COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Richmond International Raceway in Henrico County, March 2021. Photo courtesy Henrico County
As more Virginians get vaccinated, the attorney general has issued an opinion concluding that the state’s public colleges and universities can require COVID-19 vaccinations for in-person attendance this fall — although it remains up to individual institutions.
“There is no question that the General Assembly could enact a statute requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person school attendance,” Attorney Gen. Mark Herring wrote in the opinion released Monday. Also, the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Norman Oliver, has “the power of ‘requiring immediate immunization of all persons in case of an epidemic of any disease of public health importance for which a vaccine exists other than a person to whose health the administration of a vaccine would be detrimental as certified in writing by a physician licensed to practice medicine in this commonwealth.’”
Issued at the request of Del. Mark Keam, D-Fairfax County, the opinion says that colleges and universities that do require vaccines “should be prepared to provide reasonable accommodations for medical conditions and/or religious objections.” In recent weeks, some universities in the U.S. have announced a vaccine mandate, including Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown, American and George Washington universities, but so far no Virginia-based schools have followed suit.