Students in the State University of New York (SUNY) and City University of New York (CUNY) will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend the Fall 2021 semester, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The requirement came during a press conference on May 10 where Cuomo highlighted the low rates of vaccination in younger New Yorkers. According to Cuomo, 24.7% of New Yorkers between 16 and 25 are vaccinated. Cuomo is also encouraging private universities in New York to require the vaccine.
“Let’s make a global statement: You cannot go back to school in-person in September unless you have a vaccine,” Cuomo said in a press conference on May 10. “That will be a major motivation for people to get the vaccine.”
Currently, three vaccines — Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine, Moderna’s vaccine and Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine — are approved for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people 16 and up. Currently, there is no official FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19, although Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have both announced their applications for full FDA approval.
“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. “We thank the Governor for providing resources to our many campuses offering vaccines to SUNY and the broader community. The state’s new vaccination requirement — contingent on full FDA approval — will be another step in restoring normal campus activity this fall.”
The state is providing free vaccines through their state-run points of distribution. Stony Brook University has been offering vaccination opportunities exclusively for students, faculty and staff throughout the past month. University President Maurie McInnis said in a Stony Brook Council meeting on May 3 that 77% of Stony Brook students are fully vaccinated, with 16% of non-vaccinated students interested in receiving a vaccine.
80% of classes in the Fall 2021 semester will be in-person. Residence halls will also return to near full capacity, and athletic and student activities will operate fully.
In a statement, United University Professions President Frederick Kowal praised the decision but said that students with religious objections or health problems should be exempt from the mandate.
“The governor’s decision to mandate that students be inoculated against COVID-19 before returning to campus in the fall is a sound one and one that UUP, the nation’s largest higher education union, approves of,” Kowal said.