United Center

United Center COVID Vaccine Site: Here's What We Know So Far

Chicago's United Center will become a mass COVID vaccination site next month, offering up doses to thousands of people each day

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Chicago's United Center will become a mass COVID vaccination site next month, offering up doses to thousands of people each day.

But who will be eligible and when?

Here's what we know so far about the new federally-run operation:

When will it open?

In a partnership between Illinois and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the United Center will open on March 10, according to the White House.

Already, crews were seen setting up in the parking lot of the arena Friday morning, just before the White House announcement.

"Preparations and buildout of the United Center Community Vaccination Center are now underway," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said in a release.

Photos: First Look at Work Underway at United Center as Crews Transform it Into Vaccination Site

The site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks under the federal pilot program, the governor's office said.

Who will be eligible and when?

Seniors will be given access to appointments before the site officially opens, the governor's office said. But once operating, the site will be open to "all Illinois residents currently eligible to be vaccinated under the state guidelines."

"If appointments remain available after seniors have had their exclusive registration period, any remaining available slots will be open to any Illinoisans eligible under the state’s guidelines," the governor's office said in a release. "After the launch on March 10, registration will continue to be open for all Illinoisans eligible in the state’s Phase 1B+."

The site will operate by appointment only, officials said, noting that information about where and how to make appointments will be released in "coming days."

"Demand is anticipated to be high," the governor's office said.

According to the White House, the pilot center will have an "explicit focus on making sure that communities with a high risk of COVID-19 exposure and infection or not left behind."

Officials noted the United Center's proximity to "vulnerable communities" and said equity will be a main priority.

How many people can get vaccinated per day?

The site is expected to vaccinate 6,000 people per day.

What are the hours?

Officials said several details are still being determined, but they expect the site will be operated for 12 hours a day, likely from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

How will it be operated?

The United Center COVID vaccine site will be operated in tandem by local, state and federal officials, the White House said.

The site will primarily be staffed with federal employees and during its initial stages and the federal government will supply doses directly.

Officials said the vaccinations will be done in parking lots, with a tent city created to "get folks out of any elements and process them smoothly."

More than $115 million will be given through FEMA to the state, along with 200 federal personnel to help with vaccine operations across the state.

"The White House is deploying federal teams immediately to work hand-in-hand with the State and local jurisdictions, and we expect these sites to start getting shots in arms in the coming weeks," the White House said in a release.

Why the United Center?

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. Those 18 sites will have the capacity to administer a total of 61,000 shots per day, the White House said.

Those sites, including the United Center, were selected based on a range of criteria including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's "Social Vulnerability Index."

That index helps officials "identify and map communities that will most likely need support before, during, and after a hazardous event" taking into consideration "critical data points, including socioeconomic status, household composition, minority status, languages, housing type and transportation," the White House said.

The governor's office noted the location "is one of the best places in the country to advance key equity priorities through its proximity to medically underserved communities and goals of reaching those most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus."

“The United Center is one of the best locations for vaccinating large numbers of people in America: it’s easy to get to, is in the midst of a medically underserved community, can handle large crowds and is well known to everyone in Illinois," Pritzker said in a statement. “Thanks to FEMA, the United Center is just our most recent among a growing number of state-supported mass vaccination location for residents."

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