New York lawmakers who introduced a bill last year to require the COVID-19 vaccine for school children weren't successful in advancing that proposal. But they're not giving up.
State Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz sponsors legislation to require school students in New York be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It died in the Health Committee this session.
“Our job is to try to keep people healthy, safe and certainly to prevent them from dying," said Dinowitz, a Democrat from the Bronx. "And that, particularly, is important with respect to kids. ...I believe that parents should be able to make these kinds of decision for their kids if those decisions don't have an impact on other people, but because [this does] impact other people, that's when it changes."
The shot would only be mandated after full approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and recommendation by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention advisory committees.
Reqiuring New York students to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is up to the state Legislature, meaning if a measure moves forward, its future hinges on who wins the race for governor in less than two weeks.
“While it's true that younger people do better than older people when it comes to COVID, we don't want to lose one life, one young child, because they weren't vaccinated,” Dinowitz said.
The assemblyman plans to hold discussions with the state Health Department about the legislation in the coming months.
Dinowitz is hopeful Gov. Hochul would support a measure adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of other required inoculations, but it's unclear where she’d stand on signing such a measure into law.
“Based on remarks by the governor over the past year, I believe that they might, they may be receptive to that,” Dinowitz said Thursday. “But I don't know. There's certainly no commitment on this.”
Mandating the COVID-19 vaccine in schools is a topic on the ballot this election cycle, and New Yorkers have two distinct choices.
During a debate this week, Republican candidate Lee Zeldin, a congressman from Long Island, committed to being against requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone, including for school children.
"Let me be clear to all the parents who are out there: I will not mandate COVID vaccines for your kids, ever," Zeldin said Tuesday. "I don't believe there should be COVID vaccine mandates right now for our kids at SUNY, CUNY, community colleges right now and elsewhere."
That night, Gov. Hochul said mandating the coronavirus vaccine in schools rests with the Legislature.
She has no plans to mandate the shot for school and university students without a bill coming across her desk. That couldn't happen for a year at the earliest.
"I'm going to talk about parental control over this, but I also say, it's something that comes down to the Legislature anyhow," Hochul said during the debate. "The Legislature makes the determination in consultation with health experts for next year's school year. We're not talking about mandating the COVID vaccine in schools at this time."
The CDC recommended adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of routine childhood vaccinations last week. The required immunizations for New York students to attend school is created in state law. The Health Department cannot regulate or change those rules, according to the department.
"While the state takes into account the recommendations of CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices when setting its school vaccine requirements and the Department of Health strongly recommends COVID vaccine and booster for everyone eligible, legal requirements for school attendance in New York are established in state public health law," state Health Department spokeswoman Cadence Acquaviva said in a statement.
The state currently requires every student entering or attending public, private or parochial school in New York state to be immune to diphtheria, the chicken pox, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps, rubella, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B and meningococcal disease. The state does not mandate all vaccines the CDC's recommends on its routine vaccination schedule for children, like HPV and the flu shot.
The CDC’s inclusion of COVID-19 on the recommended schedule may help increase vaccination rates for children.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat from Manhattan, sponsors a similar bill that exists in the Senate that requires college students to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It also died in the Health Committee this session.
Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reports dozens of children hospitalized with the coronavirus each week and dozens of New Yorkers dying from COVID-19 each day. At least 1,070,000 people in the U.S. have died due to virus complications to date.
To view the state requirements for school attendance, visit Public Health Law Section 2164 and New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) Title 10, Subpart 66-1.