The United Center mass vaccination site opened in Chicago the morning of Tuesday March 9. A coalition of federal, state, and local officials announced in late February that it would be turned into a mass vaccination site under a new federal pilot program. The United Center was selected as the location partly for its central location and accessibility for their population and vulnerable communities.
The first vaccine doses were administered at 9:00am, however lines began to form around 7:00am. There was a one-hour delay in starting appointments, which was unspecified, that led to much confusion and more than one hundred people waiting outside. Those waiting were wrapped around two blocks with a security guard patrolling, urging them to maintain 6 feet apart. Appointments were in high demand, and those that weren’t lucky enough to snag one were told they would have to wait longer for additional information on when exactly online sign-ups would open back up, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Cook County and health officials. The public was not provided with updates, but were promised more information on how those who weren’t residents of Chicago could sign up again.
Currently all appointments are limited to Chicago and suburban Cook County residents only, but a few people were able to secure appointments before FEMA announced this.
The United Center is now the Illinois’ largest mass vaccine site, capable of up to 6,000 shots per day, and will operate seven days a week for eight weeks. Governor JB Pritzker said the vaccines given here will help “build on our current state average of more than 90,000 shots put in arms, every day.” Mayor Lori Lightfood said appointments will be reserved for residents living in “high COVID community vulnerability index neighborhood zip codes” and zip codes with low vaccine rates. This vaccine site, for the next two weeks at least, will be walk-through only, and is fully accessible for the disabled.
The opening of this mass vaccination site comes exactly one year after Governor Pritzker issued a statewide disaster proclamation for the COVID-19 pandemic, when only 11 known cases were identified in the state. “We’re getting closer every single day to the end of this pandemic, but we’re not there yet,” Pritzker said. Some of the remaining doses from this site will be given to mobile vaccination teams sent to communities hit hardest by COVID-19 outside of Cook County. Vaccinations will be offered at no cost and insurance is not required, nor will it be requested at the site.
ARTICLE: EMILY HINES
U.S. EDITOR: CARSON WOLF
PHOTO CREDITS: BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO