coronavirus illinois

Smoking Not Included Under Eligible Conditions for United Center Vaccinations, Arwady Says

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Chicago residents eligible under Phase 1B Plus of Illinois' vaccine rollout were able to sign up for appointments at the United Center mass vaccination site, but the city's top doctor said there was one approved medical condition under the state's plan that isn't included at the city site.


Smoking is on the list of high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities that make someone eligible for the coronavirus vaccine under Illinois' Phase 1B plus.

But Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said it was not included at the United Center.

"In this interim period where we just have very limited vaccine, we're using the state's 1B Plus guidance, but we did not include smokers in that," Arwady said during a Facebook Live Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that "being a current or former cigarette smoker increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19."

Eligibility for the new vaccination site at the United Center narrowed less than an hour before the registration opened further Sunday afternoon.

Following an exclusive registration period for Illinois residents over the age of 65 that began on Thursday, appointments for the United Center were initially slated to expand at 4 p.m. Sunday to all Illinois residents qualified to get vaccinated under Phase 1B Plus.

But just after 3 p.m. Sunday, officials announced that eligibility would change to include only Chicago residents in Phase 1B Plus, which is anyone over 65, some frontline workers, school staff and more, or anyone 18 and up who has certain health conditions or comorbidities.

The last-minute change sparked confusion and frustration for some who had been waiting to book appointments at the new site.

Additional appointments are expected to become available "later this week," Chicago's mayor said, noting that appointments won't just be for Chicago residents.

"We are assessing what the equity numbers look like before we open it up and we'll give further details later this week about how it is that people can sign up ," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said as the facility began its first vaccinations Tuesday. "And these are dispersed continuing with city, county and state, but we are adjusting the numbers based upon what we see in terms of the appointments - what zip codes folks are coming from, and other demographic information."

So far, only 50,000 appointments have opened to the public over the past few days, officials revealed - a major walk-back of their initial announcement that roughly 110,000 appointments would be made available.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Monday that suburban Cook County residents will likely be eligible.

"There is a significant number of appointments that that are being held for suburban Cook residents, but it is a requirement from FEMA that there is some equity focus even on those appointments and that's why we could not just make them all publicly available right now," Arwady said. "So I know it's frustrating for people and I know there was a lot of excitement around getting these appointments, and is still."

Officials did not specify how many additional appointments would be made available and who would be eligible in the next round, but said details would be released later this week.

Cook County said Sunday that it planned to announce the process of scheduling those appointments through the county’s COVID vaccine website "in the coming days."

For a full look at who's eligible under the expanded Phase 1B Plus, click here.

Opening Tuesday, 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.

Vaccinations will be offered at no cost and insurance is not required, nor will it be requested at the site.

If and when more appointments become available, officials say there are two ways for Chicago residents to register: via or by calling (312) 746-4835 between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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