All state mass coronavirus vaccination centers in New York will allow people aged 16 and older to step in without an appointment and receive their first dose, starting Thursday, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Tuesday.
Walk-in vaccinations will be available at state locations in New York City like Javits Center in Manhattan and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, as well as Long Island and upstate cities like Albany and Syracuse, the governor said.
The second dose will continue to be administered by appointment, which will be determined after the first dose has been administered.
“Just come over and roll up your sleeve and the mass vaccination centers can handle it,” Cuomo said at a press conference Tuesday.
Other types of vaccine providers in the state, such as pharmacies and locations operated by cities and counties, have the option to allow walk-ins as well, a move the governor endorsed.
New York had already started allowing some vaccinations without an appointment. Mr Cuomo announced last week that people 60 and over could come to 16 state locations for vaccination. And New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced last week that the city-operated vaccination centers would give anyone eligible to get a shot.
Allowing walk-ins simplifies a process that weighed on many New Yorkers earlier in the pandemic when getting a vaccine appointment was often spent hours searching online and some luck too. The new policy could also attract people who are still reluctant to get vaccinated, said Mr Cuomo.
“This is our way of saying, if you’ve been intimidated by trying to make an appointment, that’s gone,” the governor said.
He said it was feasible to allow more walk-ins as fewer vaccinations are now being given across the state – about 115,000 doses per day – than a few weeks ago when the state peaked at about 175,000 doses per day.
“Demand is decreasing, fewer people are asking for appointments,” said Cuomo.
State data shows that just under 45 percent of New Yorkers, or just over 8.9 million people, had received at least one dose of the vaccine by Tuesday morning.
Mr Cuomo also announced at the press conference that New York would adopt the new CDC guidelines that fully vaccinated people can safely do most outdoor activities without masks.
Reports of new cases and hospitalizations in the state have declined, according to a New York Times database, but the risk of infection remains high in New York City, where some problematic variants of the virus appear to be on the rise.