Vaccination rates have slowed in the Tri-State area and local leaders are devising new strategies for outreach and incentives to fully inoculate the population and recovery from the worst pandemic in a century.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a slew of perks for residents who get vaccinated, including free tickets to some of the city's most iconic attractions, free weekly MetroCards and possibly even cash, if it comes to that.
This comes as the FDA authorizes Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use among children ages 12 - 15 years old, meaning middle school-aged kids will be able to get the vaccine as early as this week.
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo noted Monday that the vaccination rate in the Empire State has dropped about 41 percent since mid-April.
New Jersey is reconfiguring its own vaccine distribution strategy based on new data that shows a chasm in vaccinations between wealthy and working class communities. More well-off towns have far higher vaccination rates than their less-affluent counterparts.
The Garden State will use the data to step up outreach in communities that need the figurative (and literal) shot in the arm to get vaccinated.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are angling to have 70 percent of their populations vaccinated by June 30, so they can safely end remaining COVID-19 restrictions on the economy.
"Reaching our 70 percent goal by June 30th is a key benchmark for us," NJ Gov. Phil Murphy said. "We know that in our hard-to-reach neighborhoods, we will have to push a little more, maybe a lot more, to bring the resources in."
NJ Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli says the state needs about 280,000 first doses administered each week this month to hit the June 30 goal.
Increasing vaccination rates among young people 18 - 29 remains a top priority. More than three dozen NJ breweries are participating in the state's 'Shot and a Beer' campaign, which entitles residents of legal drinking age to a free beer when they present their vaccination card (the program ends May 31). Murphy is also considering a cash incentive.
New York is considering sending eligible high school and middle school students to vaccination sites via buses.
The city is offering free tickets and deals for the NYC Aquarium, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Bronx Zoo, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Cyclones, NYC Ferry and the Public Theater among other popular attractions, for those who get vaccinated at its sites.
De Blasio says the city is 61 percent of the way towards its goal of inoculating 5 million residents by the end of June.
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