Cuomo: SUNY, CUNY students must get COVID-19 vaccines

As the 16-24 age group lags behind others, the governor mandates that 700,000 students must get vaccinated before coming to campus in fall.
By: | May 10, 2021
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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday that students attending the State University of New York and City University of New York will be required to get COVID-19 vaccinations before entering in the fall semester once they get full FDA approval.

The move comes in light of statistics presented by Cuomo at a news conference in Manhattan that showed that ages 16-24 – what he termed “the youthful and the doubtful” – were the lowest group to be fully vaccinated across the state at 24.7%. By contrast, those in upper age brackets (55 and over) have reached 60% or more. Vaccines have been available in New York for those 16 and over for more than a month.

“As far as I’m concerned, we all have one goal: get everybody vaccinated,” Cuomo said. “We have to start getting creative. “Let’s make a global statement: you cannot go back to school in September unless you have the vaccine.”

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) late last week proposed legislation that would make it mandatory for all students in the state to be vaccinated. It is unclear whether that will move forward, although there are a number of private colleges that still have not made a decision on requiring vaccines or have chosen not to.

Union College in Schenectady was one that did on Monday, joining Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) as one in the Capital Region to mandate it.

“While the vaccination requirement will apply to all students in the fall, those who are participating in official programming, taking classes, conducting research, or working or living on campus this summer must be fully vaccinated by July 1,” Union College said on statement on its website.

The others from the state of New York that have included the requirement include: Barnard College, Colgate University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Five Towns College, Fordham University, Hamilton College, Ithaca College, Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Le Moyne College, Manhattanville College, New York University, Pace University, PRI, Rochester Institute of Technology, Sarah Lawrence College, St. John’s University, Syracuse University, The New School, and University of Rochester, Vassar College.

The impact of the move

The State University of New York system is comprised of 64 colleges that stretch from Long Island to the far corners of Western and upstate New York. There are approximately 424,000 students. Meanwhile, the City University of New York has 25 campuses across the five boroughs of the Big Apple with around 275,000 students, making it the largest public urban university system in the nation.

The impact that 700,000 students, many of whom are from within the state’s boundaries, will have is significant as the state seeks to further reopen and get to more than 70% of its total population vaccinated. At the moment, it is estimated that 60% of New Yorkers have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while younger populations (even those from the 24-35 age bracket) have not at the same clip.

It is unclear whether governors in other states will follow New York’s lead, or whether its political leaders will make a move similar to Hoylman’s and propose legislation, although Nevada is one that is considering it. Most of the groundswell of support for those initiatives have come from states led by Democrats.

There are, however, several university systems that have taken steps themselves and announced vaccination requirements, including those in Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts and Delaware, along with both the University of California and the California State University systems (which also would need FDA approval).

As of Monday, more than 230 institutions had made getting doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson necessary, although that number had staggered in the past week. Only about a dozen or so new ones had signed on since May 3, leaving thousands more colleges and universities in the “other” category.

However, that group that has includes major medical research institutions such as Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins and Emory, along with Ivy League schools Harvard, Cornell, Brown, Princeton, Dartmouth and Yale.