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Vaccine mandate for schools not needed, but still on the table, Hochul says

Gov. Kathy Hochul, wearing a black jacket and blue blouse, at a microphone
Office of the Governor

A COVID-19 vaccine mandate for children attending schools in New York is still on the table, but isn’t being considered immediately by the state, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Wednesday.

With New York’s COVID-19 numbers gradually decreasing last month after an increase throughout the summer, Hochul said a mandate wasn’t necessary at this point.

“That’s a possibility. It’s on the table,” Hochul said. “As I’ve said all along, I want to empower parents and schools to do the right things first but if we’re not seeing adequate compliance or we’re seeing the numbers start going up … I will have no choice.``

New York’s seven-day average positivity rate was 2.1%, as of Tuesday, down from about 3.3% last month. The state’s positivity rate had begun to climb in July after a period of particularly low results in the early summer.

Hochul said Wednesday that the state will monitor those numbers and encourage parents to have their children vaccinated against the virus.

New York is already preparing to distribute doses of the COVID-19 vaccines across the state for children ages five through 11, Hochul said, after an advisory panel of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that population receive the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday.

It’s unclear when the federal agency will give final approval for those children to receive the vaccine, but the state has already procured about 380,000 doses for when the time comes, and figured out how they’ll be distributed by region.

Children above the age of 11 are already eligible for the vaccine, and have increased their rate of vaccination considerably in recent weeks. As of Wednesday, about 61% of those children had completed their vaccine series, according to the state.