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COVID vaccine mandate for children? Attorney weighs in

November 5, 2021

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children are filling up fast across Central New York. It comes just one day after kids ages 5 to 11 became eligible to get the shot.

On Friday, children started getting vaccinated locally, and there is huge demand from some parents eager to get their kids the vaccine. Onondaga County’s four vaccination clinics over the next two weeks are already filled up.

Demand is high for children to get vaccinated not only in Onondaga County but in Tompkins County too. All 1,200 child vaccine appointments offered through the Tompkins County Health Department filled up in just hours on Thursday.

Some children are facing a month-long delay to get into their pediatrician’s office for the shot with some parents scrambling to find another way to get their children protected. But not all parents want to get their kids vaccinated right away. A survey among moms and dads with kids in Onondaga County schools found 53-percent want their children to get the vaccine as soon as possible while 81-percent want to talk to their child’s pediatrician first.

Six months after older kids got the green light to get the vaccine, here is where the numbers stand. In Onondaga County, 58-percent of children age 12-15 have had at least one dose compared to just over 64-percent statewide. Data shows fewer children have severe symptoms of COVID, but they can get seriously ill.

California became the first state to require children to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend school. Just this week, Puerto Rico announced it would require kids to get the shot as well. There is no mandate here in New York, but a proposed bill could change that. Although some lawmakers are strongly opposed to the idea.

Kids are required to get several other vaccines to attend school. The shots protect them and others against diseases like Diptheria and Tetanus, Polio, Measles, Mumps and Rubella, Hepatitis B, Chicken Pox and more. Here in New York, children are only exempt from getting a vaccine due to a medical condition. There are no religious exemptions.

One legal expert tells CNYCentral vaccine requirements in schools are nothing new, and parents should prepare for a possible COVID vaccine mandate. “Courts have ruled in the past that vaccinating children is in their best interest. So even if parents hold a sincere belief, that’s not necessarily in the best interest of the child,” said Leslie Silva, a partner at Tully Rinckey Law Firm.

“Protecting your community is really at the forefront of all of these mandates and it’s just really important to remember that.” – Leslie Silva, Tully Rinckey

Silva says a mandate likely would not happen until the vaccine for young children receives full approval. So far, the shot only has emergency use authorization. She expects any mandates to start at the state level, but says it could be required by the federal government.

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