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Lawyer says COVID-19 vaccine requirement for schools could be met with resistance

May 25, 2021

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The latest coronavirus news from the state includes a hopeful promise for students kept out of school.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo now says he expects kids across the state “will” be back in class, in person, when school starts this fall.

“We have to get back to school,” he said in a Monday briefing.

In his comments, Cuomo celebrated improving coronavirus numbers and declared that, by September, it should be possible for all students, in all the state’s schools, to get back to in-person class, after months of mixed results online.

“Some students paid a very heavy price for remote learning,” he explained.

The governor also said he’s ready to make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for kids to get back into school.

Right now the shots are only being used under and Emergency Use Authorization granted by the Food and Drug Administration so the state can’t make that a requirement, but that would change if the vaccines get full FDA approval.

The governor and local lawyers say that could meet some resistance.

“You are going to continue to have some people that are going to fight it,” warned Don Chesworth, a partner with Tully Rinckey Law in Rochester.

“It’s a controversial subject of discussion,” the governor granted. “Remember, we mandated the measles vaccine about two years ago.”

Around the Finger Lakes, more than 8% of kids 12 to 15 and 35% of kids 16 to 18 have gotten at least one shot.

Chesworth explained that, if the shots are approved, reluctant families would have to prove a medical or religious objection to them, something that’ll probably end up in court.

“Being scared is not going to be a valid reason to not take it,” he said. “Unfortunately, the vaccine was somewhat politicized early on and some of that still lingers.”

The governor says the start of school is still a ways off but he sees plenty of promise.

“All schools open, statewide, in September,” he predicted, “unless there’s a dramatic change in the COVID trajectory.”

A statement released Monday from New York State United Teachers union President Andy Pallotta said “We support offering full-time in-person instruction five days a week and await formal guidance for the fall on how districts, working with educators and parents, should craft their plans to bring all students back to the classroom.”

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