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Protesters in Stony Brook decry COVID-19 vaccine mandate for SUNY, CUNY students

More than 100 people rallied in Stony Brook

More than 100 people rallied in Stony Brook Monday to protest vaccine mandates for students attending in-person classes at SUNY and CUNY schools. Newsday's Cecilia Dowd reports from Stony Brook. Credit: Newsday / Reece Williams

About 150 protesters gathered Monday at the LIRR station across from Stony Brook University to decry mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for SUNY and CUNY students this fall.

Those in attendance held signs such as "Why are politicians medical experts?" and "My health, my choice."

As far as getting vaccinated, they chanted "I do not consent."

SUNY officials have said the mandate is pending full FDA approval of the vaccines beyond the current emergency authorization.

Cait Corrigan, who helped organize's Monday's protest and founded Students Against Mandates, said she was contacted by Stony Brook University students who were "concerned" about taking the COVID-19 vaccine and facing "discrimination" if they don't.

"Students Against Mandates is here to support students that choose not to take the COVID-19 vaccine for whatever reason that is, and to ensure that they will be able to continue their education," said Corrigan, 23, adding that students should "be able to get a fair and equal education regardless of their personal medical information."

Corrigan, from Suffolk County and studying for her master's degree at Boston University, said she has a "long-standing religious exemption" to vaccines and "people have a right to decline vaccinations."

In a statement Monday, Stony Brook University said: "As with other immunizations that are required to enroll at Stony Brook, the COVID vaccines are important tools to protect our community's public health, and ensure student's optimal learning experience. We maintain the same process as for other required immunizations, to consider exceptions for religious or health reasons."

In June, the university said that 77% of students reported in a recent survey they were vaccinated.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in May all students returning to in-person instruction at SUNY and CUNY schools statewide this fall must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

State Assemb. Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) said while she has received the vaccination "my children don’t want to get vaccinated. They’re worried about it. They’ve spoken to people that have gotten sick that have never been sick in their lives."

Medical experts have said negative effects from any COVID-19 vaccine will almost always surface within a few weeks, and that the rare serious side effects linked to the coronavirus inoculation are far less common than severe effects of the virus itself.

Anthony Pecoraro, 19, of Roslyn, a rising sophomore at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut, said while he received the COVID-19 vaccination in April, "I made the choice to take it. That’s what it should be, a choice."

Pecoraro is the Connecticut state chair for Young Americans for Liberty, an organization with a website that touts it as "the most active and effective pro-liberty you organization advancing liberty on campus and in American electoral politics."

"I think that this COVID-19 vaccine mandate stuff is awful," he said. "It’s tyranny and a threat to individual liberty across the country. I made the decision, partially because of family pressure, partially because of my job, I travel."

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