New York City plans to offer Johnson & Johnson vaccines to tourists beginning this weekend in an effort to draw more visitors to the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced at a Thursday news conference.
De Blasio said that the city was ready to begin offering the vaccines at sites such as Central Park, Times Square, the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park, but the plan requires Gov. Andrew Cuomo to change state vaccination rules to allow the city to immunize non-residents.
A representative for Cuomo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the plan.
"We think this is a positive message to tourists," de Blasio said. "Come here, it's safe, it's a great place to be, and we’ll take care of you."
The plan represents a shift away from how de Blasio has spoken about the Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which only require one dose. The city has used them in efforts to reach homebound seniors and people with disabilities as well as for pop-up vaccination sites in neighborhoods where the vaccination rate is lagging.
The effort also comes as the city's vaccination effort has slowed dramatically, with daily immunizations declining steadily from a high of 115,774 doses on April 8, even as eligibility has expanded to include residents aged 16 and up. This week, daily immunization counts have not gone above 44,000 doses.
De Blasio defended the city's vaccination rate, saying that city data suggests that he will hit his goal of 5 million fully vaccinated residents in June. He suggested that safety concerns around the Johnson & Johnson vaccine that led to a several-week pause on the vaccine slowed the city's outreach efforts.
"We're about to put a lot of new approaches into play that I think will compensate," he said. "With enough creativity, I think we can still get there."