Capitol Notes

No formal opinion yet from NYSUT on vaccine mandate for teachers

One of the unresolved questions about a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which is likely months away from mass distribution, is whether a vaccination will be necessary for New Yorkers working in professions directly interacting with the public.

For instance, should adults in schools be required to get vaccinated for the novel coronavirus? And that’s the question we posed on Wednesday’s episode of The Capitol Pressroom to Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, which is an underwriter of the show.

“I think our folks are looking at that question right now,” Pallotta said. “Our membership throughout the state has many opinions on this, and we will be discussing these opinions with (the) NYSUT board of directors and also our leaders, our local leaders throughout the state.”

“We’re not there yet, where we have a formal opinion on this,” he added.

Endorsing a vaccine mandate would likely be a controversial position among the union’s membership. A state law in 2019 eliminating a religious exemption from school vaccine requirements generated a small and vocal backlash.

As to whether the NYSUT would defer to state health experts on the issue, Pallotta said they respect their opinions, but noted the union’s national affiliates have their own medical experts. “We would want to work hand in glove with them as we go forward,” he said about the union experts.

But what about Pallotta? Will he get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available?

“I think everyone will make a personal decision. We can just say, this year, I took the flu shot. So everybody has their right to their own opinion on taking vaccines,” he said.

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