CUNY ushers in post-pandemic era with end to vaccine mandate


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Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant

CUNY announced that it will end its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, faculty and staff by the end of the spring semester. This significant move is a timely one, signaling a new post-pandemic era with relaxed safety protocols. 

This decision comes after President Joe Biden signed a bipartisan congressional resolution to end the U.S. national emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Currently, the vaccine mandate is inhibiting campus participation more than it is helping. Many students who refuse to receive the vaccine because of religious or health reasons must file additional, unnecessary paperwork to receive an exemption to return to school. 

CUNY’s original decision to implement a vaccine mandate in the fall of 2021 was warranted considering rising coronavirus infection rates and general safety concerns.  

At the time, the announcement of a vaccine mandate divided an already polarized nation. But considering the severity of the pandemic at its peak, the vaccine mandate was a necessary measure to stop the spread, especially in New York. 

Almost two years later, coronavirus cases are down to a daily average of less than 300, compared to a daily average of over 40,000 in January of last year. 

“We are confident that this is the appropriate time for CUNY to lift the COVID vaccine requirement as a condition of enrollment or employment, though we continue to encourage all students, faculty and staff to stay up to date with vaccinations,” CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodríguez said in a statement.

But CUNY must still commit to monitoring health data to ensure that the end of the vaccine mandate does not result in an uptick of cases. 

The administration will “continue to consult with public health experts… and adhere to all pertinent federal, state and city guidance should policies need to be modified moving forward,” Rodríguez added. 

It is imperative that CUNY follows through on this promise to ensure the safety of all students, vaccinated and unvaccinated, alike.  

“While the pandemic is not over, it is reassuring to see the progress we’ve made,” Acting New York Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. “To continue that progress, the Department reminds people that we are fortunate to have easily accessible safe and effective vaccines.”

Another factor in CUNY’s success are the campuswide testing sites. CUNY sites tested 15,886 people with a positivity rate of 0.8% in April 2023. 

In a press release, CUNY announced that the testing program will also end in June.

The COVID-19 pandemic had devastating effects on a global and individual level. CUNY’s decision to end the vaccination mandate should elicit a collective breath of relief, serving as an indication that New Yorkers can finally leave the pandemic in the past.  

The end of the vaccine mandate will go into effect on May 23 for most CUNY schools. Kingsborough, LaGuardia and Guttman Community College’s mandates will end on June 16.