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Hoylman bill would mandate students get COVID vaccine upon F.D.A. approval

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Noting an alarming uptick in children hospitalized with COVID-19, Brad Hoylman wants to make a vaccine against the virus mandatory for New York students.

On Tuesday, the state senator introduced new legislation to add immunization against COVID-19 to the list of vaccines children are required to receive to attend school in New York State. This mandate would take effect 30 days after full U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of such a vaccine and upon recommendation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

“We’re at 19 months into the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States and hospitalizations for children sick with COVID-19 are currently at a record high,” Hoylman said. “We must do everything we can to make sure there never is a pediatric I.C.U. bed shortage in New York State, and that means requiring immunization against COVID-19 for schoolchildren once we know they are safe and effective. New York law currently requires students to receive immunizations against 12 different illnesses. It’s a no-brainer to add COVID-19 to that list.”

Currently, the C.D.C. recommends COVID vaccinations for everyone 12 years and older. However, the F.D.A. only earlier this week O.K.’d the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus shot for those older than age 16, which could delay adding the vaccine to a schedule for younger kids.

Hoylman noted that medical experts frequently cite the importance of herd immunity as a reason for reducing the number of non-vaccinated individuals. When a population has high vaccination rates — estimated at above 80 percent or 90 percent for COVID-19 by some immunological experts — there is a significantly reduced chance for secondary infections. This is important for people who cannot get vaccinated because of allergies or being immunocompromised, the state senator added.

Under current New York State law, children attending both public and private schools are required to receive vaccinations against polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, varicella, Haemophilus influenzae type B, pertussis, tetanus, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease and hepatitis B, in accordance with the C.D.C.’s ACIP recommended immunization schedules.

These required vaccinations help prevent outbreaks of potentially deadly communicable diseases, and contribute to herd immunity in the adult population as students age. Current law provides for a medical exemption from the required vaccines if a licensed physician certifies that one is necessary.

Hoylman has championed vaccines during his time in the New York State Senate. He sponsored legislation strengthening vaccine requirements for schoolchildren during the 2019 measles outbreak and in 2020 permitting the COVID-19 vaccine to be administered by licensed pharmacists.

Last summer, Hoylman participated in a COVID-19 vaccine trial at the Vaccine Center at New York University Langone Hospital, and this month participated in the Vaccine Center’s trial measuring the effectiveness of COVID-19 booster shots.

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