More than 100,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments will open at the United Center’s new mass vaccination site this week, but not for everyone.
Illinois Gov. GB Pritzker said in a statement that the appointments will open exclusively to Illinois residents 65 and over at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, indicating that there will be two methods of registration:
- To register online, visit Zocdoc.com/vaccine. The website is expected to handle a much larger volume of appointment requests. Zocdoc will show the availability of appointments in real time and qualified residents will then be able to set the date / time and book an appointment online. The date of birth will be required when booking an appointment to confirm eligibility for the vaccine.
- To register by phone, call (312) 746-4835. To help bridge the digital divide, a multilingual call center will be available to assist seniors with making an appointment. The call center will be available from 8 AM to 8 PM Monday through Saturday and from 8 AM to 4 PM on Sunday. Due to the expected high demand for appointments, residents who can use the website should book their appointments online. While the call center has 200 employees, those who need to use the call center will likely face long wait times.
Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwaddy said in a live Facebook update Tuesday morning that appointments will initially be open only to seniors for an exclusive registration period until Sunday afternoon.
“Appointments will only be open to those aged 65 and over,” Arwady said. Appointments will remain open only to seniors and people 65 and over, starting Thursday at 8:30 a.m. all the way through Sunday at 4 p.m., so Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the time when you are over 65, If you know someone over 65, please help them get an appointment. “
“Then, once we get to Sunday, if we can’t see all of the appointments that people over the age of 65 have taken, it will start at 4 pm on Sunday when we open our doors to people with underlying conditions,” Arwady said.
A coalition of federal, state and local officials announced last week that the United Center will become a mass vaccination site under a new federal pilot program, which will open March 10.
But Pritzker said Tuesday the site would open on a limited basis the day before, on March 9, with a full opening the following day. Arwady said early opening was possible based on “how some of the resources got in”.
Officials said that the United Center site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks and will be able to administer 6000 shots per day at full capacity, noting that the vaccinations will be by appointment only and that the demand “was expected to be high.” These doses will be provided directly from the federal government and will not be diverted from supplies sent to Chicago or Illinois.
Arwady also indicated on Tuesday that Uber is offering 20,000 free rides to and from the United Center for Chicago residents who need transportation assistance. She said the first few weeks of running the site will be in full swing, but there are plans to add the drive component in the coming weeks.
After the special enrollment period exclusively for seniors that opens Thursday, the site will be open to all Illinois residents – not just those who live in Chicago – who currently qualify for vaccinations under the current Phase 1B Plus of the state’s vaccine deployment plan.
The state expanded Phase 1B guidelines last week, opening eligibility to include people with certain high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities.
The list of eligible high-risk medical conditions (which are subject to change) includes:
- Chronic kidney failure
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Heart condition
- Immunodeficiency from solid organ transplantation
- Lung disease
- Sickle cell disease
Previously in the previous iteration phase 1B, populations of 65 and over as well as essential workers were eligible to receive the vaccine. Here’s a look at those who have already qualified under Phase 1B:
- Population aged 65 and over
- Primary frontline workers, which means “residents who have a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 due to their duties at work, often because they are unable to work from home, and / or must work closely with others without being able to diverge.” This includes:
- First responders: Fire, law enforcement, 911 workers, security officer, school officers
- education: Teachers, administrators, student support, student aid, day care workers
- Food and agriculture: Processing, plants, veterinary health, livestock services, animal welfare
- manufacturing: Industrial production of a commodity for distribution to manufactures in retail, wholesale, or other manufactures
- Correctional workers and inmates: Prison officers, juvenile facility workers, personal support workers, and prisoners
- USPS workers
- Public transport workers: Trip crew, bus drivers, train conductors, taxi drivers, semi-transit drivers, personal support, trip-sharing services
- Grocery store workers: Packing machines, cashiers, storage, pick-up, customer service
- Shelters and daycare staff: Shelter for the homeless, shelter for women, adult day / visit program, sheltered workshop, psychosocial rehabilitation
The United Center is one of 18 “federally established community vaccination centers” across the country that President Joe Biden’s administration highlighted Friday as either recently opened or opened in the coming weeks, which will be able to administer a total of 61,000 shots per day at full capacity.