NEW YORK — All students who attend state universities must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes in person this fall, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The State University of New York and City University of New York boards will require all students to provide proof of vaccination against the novel coronavirus to attend in-person classes when they begin at the end of the summer.
“So, today, no excuses,” Gov. Cuomo said Monday during a briefing in his Manhattan office. “You’re a young person. You go to a SUNY school, State University of New York, City University of New York, you must have a vaccine to come back in September. If you must have a vaccine, get it now, if you have to get it anyway.”
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s and Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot COVID vaccines for emergency authorization. Federal officials must approve the injections beyond emergency use by the date classes begin.
“They would have to give it full approval before September, otherwise, SUNY/CUNY could not mandate [the vaccine],” Cuomo said. “If it doesn’t have the full approval, you cannot legally mandate it.”
The FDA is expected to expand its approval of the companies’ coronavirus vaccines in the near future, the governor said.
Young adults ages 16 to 25 have been vaccinated the slowest in the state, with only 24% of the age group inoculated as of Monday. New Yorkers — and all Americans — are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at reduced rates in recent weeks since the life-saving shot became universally available last month.
“Over the past several weeks we have been working with our SUNY community to develop the best plan to make sure we can return to full reopening in the fall and turn the page on COVID,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in a statement Monday. “The state’s new vaccination requirement — contingent on full FDA approval — will be another step in restoring normal campus activity this fall.”
Gov. Cuomo encouraged all private universities and colleges to adopt the same guideline and mandate the vaccine for students.
“Let’s make a global statement: You cannot go back to school in person in September unless you have a vaccine,” Cuomo said. “That will be a major motivation for people to get the vaccine. And if you have to get it by September, you may as well get it now. Why wouldn’t you get it now?”
Several SUNY institutions in the 64-campus higher education system have served as state-run mass vaccination sites since the beginning of the year. About 112,150 doses have been administered across the state’s vaccine distribution network in the last 24 hours, and nearly 1.1 million doses have been administered over the past seven days, according to the governor’s office Monday.
SUNY required its roughly 140,000 students taking in-person classes or those who frequent gyms, libraries or dining halls, to test negative for the novel coronavirus throughout the fall and spring semesters. All students, faculty and staff were mandated to be tested once every two weeks, or one virus incubation period.
“Since day one of this pandemic, our students, faculty and staffs’ health and well-being have always been top priority,” Malatras said. “We have taken extraordinary steps to keep our communities safe — from 100% weekly mandated testing, to enhanced health and safety protocols ... and to a comprehensive public service campaign to get our SUNY community vaccinated — and all of these efforts have paid enormous dividends.”
SUNY’s positivity rate is 0.14% over the last two weeks across its campuses, Malatras said.
“Our system—the largest comprehensive system in the nation — has done an extraordinary job keeping our campuses running under trying circumstances,” he added.
All state mass vaccination sites are open to eligible New Yorkers on a first-come, first-serve basis. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines are free to anyone ages 16 and older, or 12 years of age and older to receive Pfizer’s vaccine, as approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration on Monday.
Walk-in appointments are reserved for first doses only. Appointments for second doses will be automatically scheduled automatically after the initial shot.
“That’s where we have to get the numbers up, the youthful and the doubtful,” Cuomo said of people who have refused to get vaccinated because of unfounded concerns about its safety.
The FDA and health experts on the state’s Clinical Advisory Task Force have each separately reviewed and approved all three vaccine.
“The doubtful, I’d say a hardcore 20 percent is philosophical — it’s fear-driven, it’s misinformation driven,” the governor continued. “There is no science to it. You can have a theory. You can have a belief, but you can’t use that to make public policy without science and without data.”
The state continues to monitor fluctuating COVID-19 infections in the Finger Lakes and Western New York, at 2.72% and 2.43% positivity Monday, respectively.
As a whole, the state’s coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue their decline to from late January to 1.43% positivity and 2,018 New Yorkers in the hospital Monday.
Twenty-seven New Yorkers died from virus complications Sunday — a new low of daily COVID fatalities in months.