At all state mass vaccination centers for coronaviruses in New York, people aged 16 and over can enter without an appointment and receive their first dose from 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.
Second doses will continue to be given by appointment, which will be determined after the first dose has been given.
“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 let anyone in for a shot.
Allowing walk-ins simplifies a process that weighed on many New Yorkers earlier in the pandemic when getting a vaccine appointment often took hours of searching online and a bit of 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 the process of trying to schedule 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 will 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 very high in New York City, where some problematic variants of the virus appear to be on the rise.