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Halloran will not mandate COVID vaccine for teachers, staff

GLOVERSVILLE — Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent David Halloran says the district will not take a position on whether staff should receive the coronavirus vaccine as the state moves onto the second priority subgroup for vaccine distribution which includes school employees.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced that anyone eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine in the state’s 1B distribution grouping can begin scheduling appointments this week.

The state’s plan to rollout the vaccine has broken distribution down into five phases with those most at risk of infection and severe illness receiving the vaccine initially and then moving into lower risk categories.

Eligibility was initially opened to the state’s 1A distribution subgroup that includes patient-facing healthcare and other critical hospital workers, seniors living in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities and people with disabilities living in congregate settings when the state first began receiving vaccine shipments in December.

The state is now opening vaccination up to the 1B distribution subgroup which includes individuals 75 and older, first responders, public safety officers, teachers and other school staff, in-person college instructors, childcare workers, public-facing grocery store workers, transit workers and individuals living and working in homeless shelters.

Although Cuomo in his announcement acknowledged the “severely” limited availability of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines that have been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and recommended for use by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The governor has estimated that full administration of the vaccine to those currently eligible in the highest priority groups could take into April.

During Monday’s regular GESD Board of Education meeting, Halloran noted that all school staff will now be eligible to receive the vaccine “if they so choose.”

“The district does not take a position on it one way or the other, we understand that’s a personal decision,” said Halloran.

The superintendent confirmed that the district has no intention of mandating coronavirus vaccination for staff members while acknowledging that the state could impose immunization requirements for school employees.

“It will not be this school district that makes a decision for the vaccination of staff. That would be something to come from the state legislature or the governor’s office, it will not come from this school system,” said Halloran.

If state lawmakers ultimately pursue legislation mandating vaccination against the coronavirus, Halloran noted the unlikelihood that students would be included in any requirements, at least initially, due to the age restrictions on each of the authorized vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine has only been approved for administration to those 16 and older while the Moderna vaccine has been approved for those 18 and older.

Although the school district will not push employees to become vaccinated, Halloran said that he plans to become immunized as part of the broader effort to end the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“I will personally get the vaccination when available because I believe it’s my responsibility to do my small part to help this country get beyond it,” said Halloran.

GESD employees will eventually be able to receive the vaccine at Nathan Littauer Hospital, according to Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Michael DeMagistris, who said the organization is still working through the vaccine doses it received from the state for administration to individuals designated in the 1A distribution subgroup.

“Once they exhaust those doses, they’ll get another batch,” said DeMagistris. “Then they’ll start with 1B.”

When Nathan Littauer receives vaccine doses for administration to the subgroup that includes school employees, DeMagistris explained that staff members will be sent a link to use to sign up for appointments to receive the vaccine. Time slots for eligible individuals to become immunized will reportedly be offered on Wednesdays through Sundays.

State residents can determine their coronavirus vaccine eligibility and access a list of nearby providers where appointments can be scheduled online at am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov or by calling the state Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-697-4829.

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