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As New York prepares to fully reopen schools, Cuomo suggests vaccinations may be required

New York may consider mandating the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible students if the federal government gives Pfizer full approval, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is being administered under the emergency-use approval the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave in December. That level of acceptance does not allow jurisdictions to make the vaccination a requirement.

Two weeks ago, Cuomo said the boards for State University of New York and City University of New York would require its students to get the vaccine if they wanted to attend in-person classes in the fall.

Cuomo told reporters that he understands requiring it would be controversial. He likened it to a move the state made a couple of years ago in requiring measles vaccinations after an outbreak.

“You have some people who never sent their child back to school because they were against the vaccine,” the governor said.

On May 7, Pfizer and its partner BioTech SE announced they were seeking full approval for people ages 16 and older.

Such a step requires the companies to submit months of data from the millions of vaccines its administered to federal officials for their review.

“We look forward to working with the FDA to complete this rolling submission and support their review, with the goal of securing full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the coming months,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement earlier this month announcing the submission.

Just days after that announcement, the FDA extended Pfizer’s emergency-use authorization to include adolescents between ages 12 and 15.

The companies said they plan to file for final approval for that age group once the six months of requisite data is complied after the younger recipients get their second doses.

The vaccine issue arose as the governor received questions about New York City officials who said there would not be a virtual learning option available for the next school year, which starts in September.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said remote learning cannot accomplish everything families need from schools.

“We’re doing it for our kids because it’s the best way to educate our kids, support them academically, support them emotionally,” de Blasio told reporters. “We’re doing it for them.

“But let me also talk about parents. I’ve talked to so many parents who have done their best to be at-home teachers. They’ve done their best to support their kids. They’ve done their best to juggle work and other obligations. They’re ready for a break too.”

Cuomo said he plans on issuing a statewide policy before the new school year begins.

“We have to get back to school,” the governor said. “Upon the current trajectory, there is no reason why we can’t open schools statewide in September.”


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