Mandatory COVID vaccinations for SUNY/CUNY students depend on full FDA approval

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FILE – In this Jan. 22, 2021, file photo, empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are seen at a vaccination center at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Jim Malatras and Governor Andrew Cuomo said SUNY/CUNY students will be required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 but not without full approval of a vaccine(s) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Just so we’re clear on the law of it, you’re right, it would require a state law to mandate the vaccine and you cannot mandate any of these vaccines yet, because they are all emergency use authorization,” Gov. Cuomo said Tuesday afternoon.

Since day one of this pandemic, our students, faculty, and staffs’ health and wellbeing have always been top priority. We have taken extraordinary steps to keep our communities safe—from 100% weekly mandated testing; to enhanced health and safety protocols; to opening our campuses to serve as vaccination sites for SUNY and the broader community; to advocating for expanded vaccine eligibility for the entire SUNY community; and to a comprehensive public service campaign to get our SUNY community vaccinated. And all of these efforts have paid enormous dividends.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras

The Governor said SUNY and CUNY students would be required to provide proof of vaccination when they went back to campuses across the state on Monday, but on Tuesday he back-peddled saying it would depend on when a vaccine or vaccines were fully approved.

“A state cannot mandate a vaccine that is authorized by emergency use. It has to receive a full federal approval first. That could take months. Obviously, if it takes months, that gets you past September where there would be a logical decision point,” he said.

Pfizer announced it had applied for full FDA approval late last week. On Monday the FDA approved Pfizer’s vaccine for use in kids ages 12-15.

“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D.

“Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations,” she said.

Malatras said SUNY was looking ahead, planning a return to campus in the fall.

“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,” he said. “The State’s new vaccination requirement—contingent on full FDA approval—will be another step in restoring normal campus activity this fall.”

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