United Center

United Center Could Become Mass Vaccination Site as Soon as March: Sources

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The United Center could become a mass vaccination center as soon as next month, offering COVID-19 vaccine doses to up to 7,000 people per day, according to a recent report.

The news is expected to be announced Friday, two City Hall sources close to the matter told NBC 5.

The site would be able to administer doses for up to 7,000 people per day, according to Crain's Chicago Business.

The governor's office did not immediately confirm the announcement, but applauded the Biden Administration for "efforts to launch high capacity vaccination sites across the country are essential to equity,"

"[Gov. Pritzker] appreciates the robust collaboration with the President and his team," the governor's office said in a statement. "Our partners at Cook County and in the City of Chicago are also essential to our collective success, especially as we work together to make sure we’re ready to use the increasing supply of vaccine in the most equitable way possible."

Chicago itself announced Thursday a new partnership with Prism Health Lab "to operate COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Chicago." The $15 million contract will go toward the operation of "new mass vaccination sites in the coming months" as well as "operation of city-funded points of dispensing sites (PODs), with an option to also conduct mobile vaccination programs as needed," according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Chicago health officials had previously said they were looking into creating mass vaccination sites at several sports stadiums, but those venues wouldn't be used until the city gets more doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

According to Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the CDPH, the department looked into hosting mass-vaccination sites at Wrigley Field, the United Center and Soldier Field, but planned to wait until the city’s allotment of vaccines increases.

“We are completely ready to stand up mass vaccination sites, but it’s about vaccine,” she said during a Facebook Live earlier this month.

The news comes as the city said it would not expand eligibility for the vaccine under Phase 1B like the rest of the state. On Thursday, Illinois moved into what it called Phase 1B Plus, which added people with high-risk medical conditions and comorbidities to the list of those eligible.

"If Chicago expanded eligibility, it would add hundreds of thousands of more people seeking vaccine in Chicago, without increasing the amount of available vaccine," the city's health department said in a release Thursday. "This would mean those currently eligible, including seniors, frontline essential workers and those in our most heavily COVID-burdened communities, would have an even harder time getting a vaccine."

According to health officials, there are 713,000 Chicagoans currently eligible under Phase 1B, not including those eligible under Phase 1A, who continue to be vaccinated. At the same time, the city has only received 218,250 first doses since first entering Phase 1B on Jan. 25.

"That is only enough vaccine to administer a first dose to 31% of Chicagoans eligible in Phase 1B," the health department said.

As doses of the vaccine continue to be delivered to Chicago, and as weather begins to warm up in the spring, Arwady says that outdoor mass vaccination sites will make more sense and be more useful as the city moves through its vaccination plans.

“One of the biggest operational things is that we monitor people for at least 15 minutes after they get a vaccine,” she said. “And that really doubles the size that we need to have at our sites because half of the space is taken up by vaccinators and half of it is taken up by the observational space.”

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