The University of Virginia is no longer requiring students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after the state’s recently elected attorney general said colleges and universities do not have the legal authority to mandate the vaccine.
The decision came after UVa officials in early January moved up the date of a required vaccine booster from Feb. 1 to Jan. 14. The attorney general’s ruling came after the vaccine booster deadline passed.
The ruling by Attorney General Jason Miyares, a Republican, overturned a previous ruling by then Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat who ruled that universities did have the legal authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.
“Attorney general opinions, though they do not have the force of law the way a court ruling does, nonetheless warrant careful consideration,” the officials wrote.
“The issue is moot for us at UVa, at least for the time being,” UVa administrators wrote in a missive distributed to the university community. “We are grateful to report that over 99% of students have complied with our vaccine and booster requirements.”
Last fall, more than 200 students were disenrolled after not meeting the vaccination requirement. Officials decided to not kick students out of school for not receiving the booster based on the advice of the school’s student affairs team, but “will continue to encourage them to do so.”
The message was signed by UVa President Jim Ryan, Provost Liz Magill, Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and Dr. K. Craig Kent, chief executive officer of UVA Health.
Because of the vaccination rate, the administrators said the university can continue with in-person classes and events.
“We can and will continue on the path we have set for ourselves,” the officials wrote. “That path, for the last two years, has been guided by our public health experts, who have offered advice and direction every step of the way.”
UVa has seen a decrease in new cases in recent weeks. The seven-day average of new cases is down to 40, which is far higher than case counts this school year but below the peak of 72.
Several other universities, including James Madison University and Virginia Tech, have also relaxed their requirements after the attorney general changed course.
UVa previously required employees to get vaccinated, but that requirement ended last month after a new state executive order. Most employees have received the COVID-19 vaccine and booster.
Current testing and masking policies will remain in place, according to the message. Officials said they’ll provide an update later this week regarding the restrictions on food and beverages at university-related events. Those restrictions expire Friday.