United Center to become mass vaccination site


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United Center will be home to a new COVID-19 vaccination site, with the ability to vaccinate 6,000 people a day.

Beginning March 10, a new COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center will vaccinate 6,000 people a day. 

 More than 100,000 appointments opened this week, with more coming soon, as the site is expected to stay open for eight weeks.

The United Center site, which is set up in the arena’s parking lot, will allow anyone eligible state-wide to get a vaccine. 

“The United Center is a major improvement in terms of our ability to get the vaccine first to seniors,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady at a March 4 press conference.

“The primary goal of this location is to provide equitable access to the COVID-19 vaccine for Chicagoland’s seniors and socially vulnerable individuals,” a FEMA representative told The DePaulia.

Appointments for the location opened to residents over 65 on Thursday, March 4; appointments for all other eligible citizens, including college students with high-risk pre-existing health conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart conditions, open on Sunday. 

“Once we get to Sunday, if we don’t see all of the appointments taken by people over 65, starting 4 p.m. on Sunday is when we would then open up to people with underlying conditions,” Arwady said.

The vaccines will be administered in Parking Lot E of the facility, on the building’s north side.

The United Center was chosen as the location for a federally-operated site because “it provides the necessary space and structure to administer up to 6,000 doses a day, it is uniquely situated to support medically underserved areas of the city, and it is accessible via a variety of transportation options,” the FEMA representative said.

The location was selected based on the CDC’s social vulnerability index, which uses U.S. Census data to identify communities especially vulnerable to disasters — or in this case, coronavirus outbreaks. 

It will be made even more accessible through ride donations from Uber. 

The rideshare app will be providing 20,000 rides to and from the United Center “to help close equity gaps in vaccination access in Chicago,” by reducing transportation barriers, Robert Kellman, an Uber representative, told The DePaulia.  

According to the FEMA representative, the United Center site will be staffed by more than 200 Department of Defense personnel and have the capacity to vaccinate 6,000 people per day, and it will receive special shipments from the federal government instead of drawing from the city’s or state’s supplies. 

The United Center is currently the only federally operated vaccination site in Illinois. It will begin administering a limited amount of shots on March 9, and then fully open the following day.

When the state expanded into Phase 1B, Chicago and Cook County announced they would not follow suit, due to the extremely limited vaccine supplies. 

This site brings an influx of doses to address that shortage, helping the state reach a goal set by Gov. Pritzker to administer 100,000 shots per day by mid-March. 

Still, many more Chicagoans need to be vaccinated. Currently, nearly one million Chicagoans are eligible in Phase 1B and around another million are eligible at facilities following state regulations like the United Center. However, just one in seven Chicagoans have received their first shot so far. 

The city has recently turned its focus on equity and targeting those most at risk with its Protect Chicago Plus initiative, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has declared March “Senior Month.”

Around 2.4 million vaccines have been administered statewide. 

Appointments can be made on www.zocdoc.com/vaccine or by calling the multilingual hotline at (312) 746-4835.