Vaccine mandate now in effect for on-campus SUNY students

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The State University of New York will require students on its campuses to be vaccinated now that the FDA has given full approval to the Pfizer vaccine for people 16 years of age and older. The vaccine continues to be available under emergency use authorization, including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and the administration of the third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras tweeted Monday the SUNY Board of Trustees authorized the policy, which applies to any student enrolled in in-person learning at any SUNY campus and its facilities.

The policy includes a grace period of up to 35 days to allow students to provide proof of vaccination or request a medical or religious exemption for campus review.

According to the COVID-19 Vaccination Policy, "Upon expiration of this grace period, any student who has not shown that they have completed a full vaccine series or been granted an exemption will either be unenrolled, or may revert to fully remote instruction if that is an available option based on the student’s course of study and is otherwise permitted by the campus, and will no longer have access to any in-person campus activities or services."

State officials are also strongly encouraging SUNY faculty and staff to be vaccinated.

John Follaco, Director of Communications for the school says getting everyone vaccinated is a top priority.

"We’re not quite there yet," Follaco said. "We were hoping to be further along. The Delta variant has thrown us a curveball, but the way out of this is through vaccination."

Follaco said the school has been keeping their students informed, especially those still needing a vaccine.

"An email is going out to our students that has information on how they can get a vaccine. There’s a vaccine finder where you can type your zip code, and find a vaccine near you," Follaco said.

Some students and parents welcome the SUNY system’s COVID-19 vaccination policy.

"I really don’t mind about the mandate, because it’s important about the safety of the students," said incoming freshman Noah Velez-Aviles.

His mother, Deborah, Aviles agrees.

"I think it’s, for all these kids that are coming from all over the place, all places from the world," Aviles said. "It would make sense."

In an effort to help boost vaccination rates at the school, Follaco said there’s a plan already in place even after students are already back.

"Next week SUNY Brockport is going to be hosting a series of vaccination clinics in partnerships with Wegmans on some days, and Walmart on other days. We’re going to be offering the Pfizer vaccine. There’s going to be plenty of availability. Sign up, let’s get you vaccinated, and let’s move on with our semester," Follaco said.

Besides the vaccine, local private colleges and universities are also mandating that everyone wear a mask while indoors, no matter their vaccination status.

Click here to find a state-run vaccine site near you.