On May 10, Governor Cuomo made an announcement that once the Covid-19 vaccines are federally approved, CUNY and SUNY students will be required to receive the vaccine to attend in person classes this fall. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is urging private schools to also require vaccinations.
This requirement will depend on if the vaccine received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. Cuomo stated, “You cannot go back to school in September unless you have the vaccine.” On Tuesday May 11th he clarified that, “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.”
At the moment, none of the COVID vaccines are approved by the FDA. They all have Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) that is granted after reviewing several months of data from thousands of individuals. Receiving FDA approval is a much longer and harder process. At least six months of quality data is required. Roughly another six months is needed for data analysis. The major difference between EUA and FDA approval is the long term data results. Their goal is to monitor the volunteers long term reactions to the vaccine. A fourth vaccine, Novavax, is planning on full approval later this year.
In response to Governor Cuomo’s announcement, Instagram user @flowerchiildxxo commented, “Forcing people to do something they don’t want to do to get a proper education and degree to better their quality of life is unacceptable. I’ve been very proud to be a CUNY student up until now.” In response to this comment user @cem_nouri said. “I disagree. This should absolutely be a requirement! It’s important to get the vaccine, especially if one is considering sitting in a classroom with a large group of people every day throughout the week.”
Earlier this semester the CUNY Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning conducted a Planning the Return to Campus: Fall 2021 Student Survey. There were 6,240 total responses (response rate of 34.6%). This survey was administered to gauge student concerns, plans, and overall thoughts on the fall semester. With the fall being online, mostly in-person, and hybrid, 60.8% responded they prefer online/virtual classes only. All students that will be on campus are required to be vaccinated, although when asked “Do you plan to get vaccinated against Covid-19 when you are eligible?” of those not wanting in person classes or are unsure, 25.7% responded no, I will not get vaccinated. Of those who want in person classes, 9.7% responded not wanting to get vaccinated.
While some people are rejecting the vaccine now, it does not mean they are “anti-vaxxers” and do not care about the greater good. They are advocating for medical freedom, waiting for long term data and FDA approval before getting vaccinated.
Kaiser Health News said, “In the history of medicine, rarely has a vaccine been developed in less than five years” but the Covid-19 vaccine was developed in less than a year. The clinical trials for the Covid-19 vaccine began during the summer of 2020, so long-term side effects are unknown.
CUNY has been active in combating the virus. The first New Yorker to receive the vaccine was Sandra Lindsay, a nurse and Lehman Alum. “I hope this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history,” she said. As an anchor in our community, Queens College took initiative and opened a temporary vaccine site. On April 10th and 11th of 2020, Queens College successfully distributed 1,200 shots. This effort was supported by Councilmember Jim Gennaro and Senator Toby Ann Stavisky who made a special appearance at the college.
Students who are not ready to receive the vaccine will have the option of taking online classes. However, it is important to check CUNYFirst frequently. Even if you are enrolled for an online class, it could change to hybrid or in-person overnight. In a statement from President Frank Wu, “Queens College will be making revisions to the current Fall 2021 schedule to add/convert more courses to a hybrid model.” If you are already enrolled in a class solely for its online format, don’t be surprised if the class suddenly changes to hybrid or fully in person instruction.”