A Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate may be Reconsidered by State Lawmakers

Three Village Central School District administration building.

By Abigail Bender and Samantha Rutt

A new COVID-19 vaccine for New York K-12 and college students might be in the pipeline, after a group of state senators resurfaced the idea in Albany, on January 10. Long Islander’s have already shown concerns as it may have an impact on their children come the 2023-2024 school year. 

“I am 100% against a mandate, would pull my children from school to homeschool,” Kat Hee, a local parent with children in William Floyd school district, shared.

Following the meeting, William Floyd, a Suffolk County school district, released a letter addressing the district’s concerns on masking and Covid-19 vaccine requirements. The letter highlighted the district’s success in safe operations upon the removal of both vaccine and mask mandates in the winter of 2022, and pleaded a case for the requirements to remain unset. The letter was signed by various district employees including the Superintendent.

Local school and authorities have argued that both the pandemic and vaccination mandates have affected school enrollment.

 “At the present time, not much has been shared about mandatory vaccinations for Covid-19,” Three Village Central school district Superintendent Kevin Scanlon said. “However, when the State required mandatory vaccinations in the past, many districts saw an increase in the number of those students whose parents decided to home school rather than meet those mandates.” 

If the mandate is set in place for the coming school year it is likely Long Islander’s fear a continued decline in enrollment instead of a return to pre-pandemic numbers, according to numbers from Western Suffolk BOCES school district. 

“There are some parents who have opted to keep their children out of public school instead of vaccinating,” Donna Sherwood, a kindergarten teacher at Sachem Central School district said. “There are cohorts popping up all over of retired teachers or teachers providing education during the day in a non-public school setting. One of the custodians in my building sends his children there because they believe vaccines cause harm to children.”

After a unanimous vote conducted by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) independent Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices the Covid-19 vaccine will become a part of the 2023 recommended immunization schedule for children and adults. The CDC recommends the use of Covid-19 vaccines for everyone aged 6 months. 

“As a healthcare provider, public health is important to me,” Randi Raspberry, a local healthcare provider said. “Vaccines, like all other medical care, is not ‘one size fits all’. The pandemic has brought many things to the forefront that may have not been considered previously, including medical individualism, paternalism in healthcare, and autoimmune disorders.”

Governor Hochul hasn’t taken a definitive stance on a Covid-19 mandate for K-12 students, yet she mentioned she would leave this decision up to legislation.

“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 gubernatorial debate in October.

Whether or not to require a Covid-19 vaccination in schools will be listed as a question on the ballot this upcoming election cycle. 

Assemblyman Jefferey Dinowitz currently has a bill in committee that would require immunization against Covid-19 for attendance in schools. Part of the bill eliminates religious exemptions to vaccine mandates for employment and school. The proposed bill also creates a statewide system to track medical exemptions. 

“I think children get too many vaccines as it is and this one is not necessary,” says Heather Ogiejko, a homeschooling mother based in Setauket, “I know a lot of people personally that will pull their kids out of school if it is mandated.”