RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– Public universities have the authority to require students and faculty to be vaccinated before attending in-person classes and activities, according to Virginia’s Attorney General Mark Herring.
On Monday, Herring said Democratic Del. Mark Keam asked for his legal opinion on the matter. At least 12 schools in Maryland announced they will require everyone on-campus be vaccinated come this fall.
Herring said there is no federal law stopping Virginia colleges and universities from imposing a vaccine requirement, noting the nature of college campuses and outbreaks seen during the pandemic so far.
He added 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 acknowledged that imposing a vaccine requirement is “not without complications,” and that schools should be prepared to “make accommodations for medical and religious reasons.”
So public institutions of higher education in Virginia can require COVID-vaccines — but should they?
“It’s… human logic or it can be very personal or political,” said Michael Nguyen, a student at VCU. “I think the university needs to do stuff that it thinks is best for the students.”
The student told 8News he thinks it’s a reasonable requirement as the country races toward herd immunity and people itch to do things they used to.
“Do you want to stay like this, for however how long, or do you want to make a change,” Nguyen said.
Not everyone agrees. The student said they have already seen a lot of backlash on social media.
“The comments are just a lot of like, this shouldn’t be a thing, they shouldn’t make me get the vaccine against my will,” Nguyen said.
Another student who asked not to be named said he doesn’t want to get the vaccine but may fall into the pressure of getting it if it’s required to do things like travel and attend class.
Many universities, like VCU, are offering virtual learning options in the fall. No schools in the Richmond-area have announced requiring those on campus be vaccinated just yet.
However, some are considering Herring’s guidance. On Monday, VCU spokesperson Mike Porter released the following statement:
“VCU does not currently require COVID-19 vaccinations for students, faculty and staff. VCU is reviewing the Attorney General’s guidance as decisions are made about the fall semester.“