COVID-19 vaccinations won’t be required for NYC public school students: mayor

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NEW YORK — Students at New York City public school’s won’t be required to receive COVID-19 vaccines, the mayor said Tuesday.

SUNY and CUNY students will need to be vaccinated to return to campuses, though nearly all college students are eligible for a vaccine, unlike many elementary and secondary school students under the age of 16.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked at a news conference Tuesday if he’d follow a similar path to SUNY and CUNY schools, requiring students to be vaccinated.

“No. Across the board,” he said. “We are seeing extraordinary success right now in our schools. And this is before we’ve been able to vaccinate our kids.”

The mayor said he’s excited about the new approval for teenage use, but said health and safety measures in schools are getting the job done.

“I’m really excited about the fall. I think we’re going to be in much, much better shape then, than we even are now in terms of the overall COVID situation,” he said. “I think you’ll see a lot of students and a lot of staff vaccinated by then.”

At the state level, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he doesn’t think federal approval for younger children (under the age of 12) will happen before the next school year, but if it does, vaccination requirements would be a legitimate “topic of discussion.”

Cuomo’s news conference was held at the Javits Center, the region’s largest vaccination megasite.  The governor said that Javits and other sites that have the Pfizer vaccine will be prepared to administer it to children 12 and older, by Thursday.  

The state will still keep the focus of its vaccination push on people 16 and older.

Adrian De La Cuadra, a Queens school bus driver, said that the eligibility change will help keep him — and his students — safe.

“That would help me a lot, because we’re together with a lot of kids, so that’s the best way,” he said.

Elizabeth Rodriguez asked her daughter, Joselyn Cabrera, to translate her response.

“So she would talk to my dad,” Cabrera said, translating her mother’s Spanish, “and agree with him to see if I could get the vaccine.”

As for herself, Cabrera, a 13 year-old seventh grader, was in favor of being vaccinated.

“The vaccine, I think it would be a pretty good idea [because] now the kids get to be like the adults or parents, and they get to be a bit safer with the vaccine,” she said.

While the mayor said he’s excited to welcome each and every student back to school in the fall, a majority of public school parents, like Johnny Rasul of Queens, have not sent their 12 to 15 year old children back for in-person this school year.  

He said that in order for him to feel comfortable sending his child back to in-person learning in the fall, there’d need to be a minimum rate of vaccinations among students.

“It has to be over 50%,” Rasul said.  “We can send kids to school because it will feel a lot safer then.”

He also said that he hopes that if half of students are vaccinated, a large percentage of additional students will get vaccinated, too.

An FDA panel approved the Pfizer vaccine for teen on Monday evening. The CDC panel that could give the final emergency approval for Pfizer vaccine use for 12- to 15-year-olds is expected to vote on the issue before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.

Top infectious disease specialist Dr. Anthony Fauci said the nation is at a critical point with the coronavirus, and to officially turn that corner, vaccinations must continue.

“If we continue to vaccinate people at the rate that we’re doing, that we will very soon have a situation where we will have so few infections in this country, we will begin to return to normality that all of us desire so much,” said Fauci.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said adolescent vaccinations are expected to begin Thursday.

“I am encouraging all parents to get their children vaccinated — and some parents won’t want to be first, but I’m also encouraging children to ask for the vaccine,” said Walensky. “These kids want to go back to school. They want to go back to the things they love.”

Lauren Cook contributed.

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