No decisions made on vaccine requirements at local colleges

Published 8:59 am Thursday, April 29, 2021

Three Virginia colleges have made a COVID-19 vaccine a requirement, and more may join them soon following Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s opinion last Monday that such a requirement is legal.

In his opinion, Herring said Virginia colleges and universities, “may condition in-person attendance on receipt of an approved COVID-19 vaccine during this time of pandemic.” So far, private schools Hampton University, Virginia Wesleyan University and Mary Baldwin University have said they will require students who return in the fall to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

As for Farmville’s two institutions of higher learning, no decisions have been made yet.

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“Longwood certainly encourages all students to get vaccinated because it is the best way to keep themselves and the campus community safe and healthy,” Longwood University’s Assistant Vice President of Communications Matt McWilliams wrote in an email Friday, April 23. “It’s not required at this time, and I don’t have a timeline on when it would be. A factor in our decision will be guidance provided to Virginia public universities, which we expect to receive soon but which may also evolve. As you know, we are playing our part in the vaccination effort this spring with a student vaccine clinic last week and second dose clinic in early May. We will continue to try and make vaccines available to students as staffing and supply allow.”

After learning of the attorney general’s decision Monday, McWilliams said the university is reviewing Herring’s opinion but has not finalized plans for the fall semester yet.

Gordon Neal, director of communications and marketing at Hampden-Sydney College, said they are also in a wait-and-see mode.

“At this point, the college is strongly encouraging students and employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccination,” Neal said in a Monday, April 28 email. “In collaboration with the Virginia Department of Health and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, Hampden-Sydney recently hosted two vaccination clinics for students, and a significant portion of the student body received a first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Students will have the opportunity to receive a second dose on campus before departing for the summer break. The college will continue to consult with the Virginia Department of Health and local health officials and consider policy adjustments as conditions evolve, as has been the case throughout the pandemic.”

Private schools, such as Hampden-Sydney College, are not included in Herring’s opinion, which only addresses vaccine requirements in state universities.