Beginning this summer, SUNY students are no longer required to get vaccinated for COVID-19 to attend classes.
SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. announced the end of the vaccination mandate on Tuesday. The decision came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill ending the country’s COVID-19 national emergency.
SUNY’s mandate had been in place since fall 2021, instated by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Currently, 77.5 percent of New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 25 are vaccinated. At the time of Cuomo’s announcement, the number of young vaccinated New Yorkers was far lower — with 24.7 percent of New Yorkers aged 16 to 24 vaccinated.
On April 12, Binghamton University updated its COVID-19 guidance policy to announce their compliance with the chancellor’s decision, effective immediately. COVID-19 vaccinations will instead be strongly recommended across SUNY campuses, like vaccinations for the flu, King said in a press release.
“The safety of SUNY’s students is our first and foremost priority, and while [COVID-19] is no longer an emergency, we will not lose sight of the impact it continues to have on us,” King said. “Across SUNY we will continue to monitor cases and make adjustments as needed, but even more importantly, we will look to increase the overall health and wellness support we provide our students.”
Previously, students were required to show proof of vaccination in order to attend in-person classes at BU. As of fall 2021 — the last year BU President Harvey Stenger’s quarterly report included vaccination data — 99 percent of on-campus BU students were vaccinated, with 280 claiming religious exemption.
According to SUNY’s updated COVID-19 guidance policy, vaccines may still be required for students taking part in internships at third-party locations, who must comply with the guidelines at said location. Some students, like Lucy Mandel, a junior double-majoring in history and philosophy, politics and law, felt that despite the mandate ending, on-campus students should get vaccinations to keep the campus community safe.
“I guess as long as it’s strongly encouraged that’s still important, but there’s still people that are immunocompromised — and that puts them at risk — and older professors,” Mandel said. “It’s up to people to decide what to do but it’s also important to get vaccinated.”
SUNY has been rolling back COVID-19 protocols over the past few years, with mandatory surveillance testing ending at the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year. Seth Bally, a senior majoring psychology, said the mandate’s end came amid a decreasing presence of COVID-19 in day-to-day life.
“I do feel like [COVID-19] is, thank god, slowly winding down, so it makes sense now, and it’s kind of liberating to know that,” Bally said. “But we haven’t had mask mandates and stuff for a while — so for a while it’s kind of felt like it’s been over.”
SUNY campuses are also given the choice to keep their mandate in place if they face changes in local COVID-19 conditions, according to the guidance policy. Campuses considering maintaining the mandate must consult with SUNY’s senior vice chancellor for academic health and hospital affairs and the SUNY General Counsel.