Hochul offers 50 SUNY scholarships as kid vax incentive

Courtesy of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office Gov. Kathy Hochul announces in Mount Vernon on Tuesday that 50 New York children who receive a COVID-19 vaccine through Dec. 19 who enter a raffle will be randomly selected to receive a full-ride scholarship for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program at any SUNY or CUNY campus.

MOUNT VERNON — Fifty New York children who get their COVID-19 vaccine within the next five weeks will be randomly selected to receive a full scholarship to a state university, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday.

Parents and guardians of 5- to 11-year-old children can enter their children into a random drawing to receive a four-year scholarship covering all tuition, room and board at a State University of New York or City University of New York campus when they receive Pfizer-BioNTech’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 19.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommended Pfizer’s vaccine for children Nov. 1.

“We’ve been waiting far too long for this pandemic to be over and this vaccination is the key,” Gov. Hochul said Tuesday after a COVID briefing at the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center in Westchester County. “If you can do this and make sure they’re safe before the holidays, before they see the grandparents at Thanksgiving, you’ll do a great service not just to your children to protect their health, but also it helps the whole society, our economy and everyone else.”

Ten winners from across the state will be randomly selected each week for five weeks.

The first winners will be announced Nov. 24.

Scholarships can be used for two or four years of study in any SUNY or CUNY associates or bachelor’s degree program, and includes allowances for books, supplies and transportation up to the average cost at SUNY colleges, according to the governor’s office.

“Vaccinations were the key to a more normal academic and campus experience throughout SUNY,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a statement Tuesday. “Now that even younger individuals have an approved vaccine option, this is another huge step to seeing the finish line of this pandemic, and we must continue to do all we can to encourage everyone to get their shot. I applaud Gov. Hochul for offering this new incentive along with an opportunity to attend one of our campuses tuition free. We truly hope families across our state take advantage of this offer.”

To enter, visit forms.ny.gov/s3/Vaccinate-Educate-Graduate-Vaccine-Incentive or call 1-833-697-4829 to submit an entry over the phone.

Only one entry per child. Winners will be verified by the state Health Department and state Higher Education Services Corporation and removed from future drawings.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo held a similar raffle in the spring, offering full SUNY or CUNY scholarships to adolescents and teens who got vaccinated. The state held drawings earlier this year for 50 full scholarships for 12- to 17-year-olds who received the shots after they became eligible in May.

Hochul announced the scholarship program as part of the state’s Vaccinate, Educate, Graduate COVID vaccine incentive to encourage parents to schedule a COVID vaccine appointment for every 5- to 11-year-old child.

To make an appointment, contact your pediatrician, family physician, county health department, federally qualified health center, rural health center or pharmacy. Several school districts statewide will hold pop-up coronavirus vaccine clinics in the coming weeks.

To find other nearby locations, visit vaccines.gov or call 1-800-232-0233.

Hochul reiterated statements she made last week that the state’s school mask mandate for any person age 2 and older will end after a majority of New York children get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We are aggressively approaching the opportunity to finally put an end to the era of children wearing masks in schools — I want that to the case very soon, but it all comes down to the parents,” Hochul said. “I don’t want to have to mandate vaccinations for kids in schools. My position is, let the parents do it. Let the parents be in power to do what they should do, just like their little kid could not go off to Kindergarten until they had a series of vaccinations. It’s the same thing.”

Mandating the vaccine for school children remains a possibility, Hochul said.

“I’m going to watch [transmission] rates. Hopefully they stay low but if they start going up and we don’t get full compliance, I’m going to have to consider alternatives,” she added.

Hochul declined to give a timeframe or name a month when the state will evaluate rescinding the school mask requirement, warning the virus infection rate could increase with holiday gatherings and people retreat indoors in the winter months.

The state’s COVID infection rate increased slightly to 3.56% Tuesday, and 2.65% over a seven-day average, according to the governor’s office.

The state reports 1,878 people hospitalized with the virus, an increase of 84 people overnight.

Thirty-six New Yorkers died from COVID complications Monday, bringing the state total to 58,413 fatalities.

More than 75.1% of all New Yorkers, and 84.9% of adults ages 18 and older, have received at least one COVID vaccine dose, according to the governor’s office Tuesday.

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