More than 100,000 appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations at the United Center's new mass vaccination site will open this week, but not for everyone.
Appointments will open exclusively to Illinois residents age 65 and over at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement, noting that there will be two ways to sign up:
- To register online, visit Zocdoc.com/vaccine. The web site is projected to handle much higher volume of appointment requests. Zocdoc will show real-time appointment availability and eligible residents will then be able to select a date/time and book an appointment online. Date of birth will be required when booking an appointment to confirm vaccine eligibility.
- To register by phone, call (312) 746-4835. To help bridge the digital divide, a multi-lingual call center will be available to help seniors make an appointment. This call center will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Given the anticipated high demand for appointments, residents who can use the web site should book their appointments online. While the call center has 200 staffers, those who need to use the call center will very likely experience lengthy wait times.
Appointments will initially be open only to seniors for an exclusive registration period through Sunday afternoon, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a Facebook Live update on Tuesday morning.
"Appointments will only be open to people 65 years and older," Arwady said. "Appointments will stay open only for seniors, people 65 and plus, from Thursday at 8:30 a.m. all the way through Sunday at 4 p.m. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday is the time that if you are over the age of 65, you know someone over the age of 65, please help them get an appointment."
"Then, 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 added.
A coalition of federal, state and local officials announced last week that the United Center would be turned into a mass vaccination site under a new federal pilot program, opening on March 10.
But Pritzker said Tuesday that the site will open on a limited basis a day earlier, on March 9, with a full opening the following day. Arwady said that early opening was made possible based on "how some of the resources are coming in."
The United Center site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks and will be able to administer 6,000 shots per day at full capacity, officials said, noting that vaccinations would be by appointment only and that demand was "anticipated to be high." Those doses will be provided directly from the federal government and not diverted from the supply sent to Chicago or Illinois.
Arwady also noted Tuesday that Uber is offering 20,000 free rides to and from the United Center for Chicago residents who need assistance with transportation. She said that the first few weeks of the site's operation would be walk-up but that there are plans to add a drive-up component in the coming weeks.
Following the special registration period exclusively for seniors that opens on 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 rollout plan.
The state expanded Phase 1B guidelines last week, opening up eligibility to include people with certain high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities.
The list of qualifying high-risk medical conditions (which is subject to change) includes:
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Heart Condition
- Immunocompromised State from a Solid Organ Transplant
- Pulmonary Disease
- Sickle Cell Disease
Previously under the earlier iteration Phase 1B, residents age 65 and over as well as essential workers were eligible to receive the vaccine. Here's a look at those who already qualified under Phase 1B:
- Residents age 65 and over
- Frontline essential workers, which means "residents who carry a higher risk of COVID-19 exposure because of their work duties, often because they are unable to work from home, and/or they must work closely to others without being able to socially distance. This includes:
- First responders: Fire, law enforcement, 911 workers, security persPDonnel, school officers
- Education: Teachers, principals, student support, student aids, day care worker
- Food and agriculture: Processing, plants, veterinary health, livestock services, animal care
- Manufacturing: Industrial production of good for distribution to retail, wholesale or other manufactures
- Corrections workers and inmates: Jail officers, juvenile facility staff, workers providing in-person support, inmatesU
- USPS workers
- Public transit workers: Flight crew, bus drivers, train conductors, taxi drivers, para-transit drivers, in-person support, ride sharing services
- Grocery store workers: Baggers, cashiers, stockers, pickup, customer service
- Shelters and day care staff: Homeless shelter, women’s shelter, adult day/drop-in program, sheltered workshop, psycho-social rehab
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 opening in the coming weeks, that will able to administer a combined total of 61,000 shots per day at full capacity.