New York offering chance at free college to kids who are vaccinated against COVID-19

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Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference at the New York State Capitol on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Albany City. - Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/TNS

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Kathy Hochul wants school kids to give it the old college try when it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

New York is raffling off 50 full free rides to either a SUNY or CUNY college as part of the state’s latest enticement to get immunized, Hochul announced on Tuesday.

The incentive program, dubbed “Vaccinate, Educate, Graduate,” allows parents and guardians of children ages 5 through 11 who receive their first vaccine dose by Dec. 19 to enter for a chance to win a full scholarship to any two- or four-year SUNY or CUNY college or university.

“Tuition. Fees. Room and board. The whole nine yards,” Hochul said during an event at the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center in Westchester County.

Former Gov. Cuomo offered up a similar enticement for high schoolers back in May when teens became eligible.

Hochul said more than 350 school districts in the state have already made plans to host immunization events for kids aged 5-11 since the Pfizer vaccine gained federal approval for the age group last week.

New York already has more than 700,000 doses ready to be administered to children, with more than 300,000 destined for the city.

While governors in neighboring states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, have said masks requirements in schools may be eased as soon as January, Hochul said fears of a post-holiday surge need to be taken into account.

“I can’t ignore the history. I hope that is not the case,” Hochul said. “I just don’t have enough data right now to put a date on a decision, but that decision is forthcoming.”

As of Tuesday, 75% of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of vaccine, Hochul said.

The governor said that vaccinating younger kids ahead of the holidays will help ease anxieties and fears about spreading the deadly virus.

“Let’s make sure grandma and grandpa do not get sick from children who have been exposed to other kids,” she said. “If everyone gets vaccinated we can protect other family members.”