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Who decides if Covid-19 vaccines will be required for New York public school students?

COVID-19 vaccine
Posted at 4:28 PM, Oct 24, 2022

BUFFALO (WKBW) — Last week the Centers for Disease Control voted to include the Covid-19 vaccine in the recommended vaccine schedule for 2023.

The vote does not mandate the vaccine for anyone, including children attending public school. That decision is left up to individual states.

With that in mind, Governor Kathy Hochul was recently asked if New York plans to add Covid-19 vaccinations to the state's vaccine schedule.

"That has to go through the state legislature by law," said Governor Hochul. "So, that will be something that the state legislature will be reviewing in consultation with our Commissioner of Health in the next couple of months."

On Monday, 7 News reached out to the Governor's office to ask if Governor Hochul supported Covid-19 vaccines for students attending school and received the following from a spokesperson.

"Governor Hochul continues to encourage all eligible New Yorkers to be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, and we take recommendations handed down by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices seriously. While there is a legislative process to add any vaccination to the state’s required immunization for school children, we will closely review any recommendation handed down by the advisory committee."

7 News also reached out to Hochul's opponent Lee Zeldin with the same question. We received no response.

But just last week Zeldin took to social media to say in part, "As Governor I will oppose mandating the COVID vaccine for grade school, college, employment or otherwise. Kathy Hochul needs to let the public immediately know exactly where she stands on this issue that is extremely important for so many New Yorkers."

"Covid is here to stay, and we need to deal with it," says Dr. Thomas Russo, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Medicine with the University at Buffalo.

Dr. Russo says he wasn't surprised by the CDC announcement concerning Covid-19 vaccines.

"I think we have know this vaccine is extraordinarily beneficial really for every age group," said Dr. Russo. "This just reinforces that fact."

Dr. Russo says although there is still plenty to learn about the virus, and it's many variants, vaccination in children 5 and up is still recommended to protect against infection and long Covid-19, reduce poor outcomes if you do get sick, and decrease transmission.

As for if he sees Covid-19 vaccines being mandated for school age children in New York State?

"From an infectious disease point of view, and a public health point of view, the benefits of Covid vaccination are quite clear. However, Covid-19 vaccines have been an extraordinarily emotionally charged process, particularly when it comes to children. I think as a state we are going to need a bit of time to process this consideration before we decided to mandate this vaccine for our school age children."