As part of an effort to get more of Illinois vaccinated through opening a Chicago mass COVID-19 vaccination site, officials announced Friday that senior citizens will have a specially designated registration period.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in a press conference that initial appointments for the United Center vaccination site will be available exclusively for Illinoisans over the age of 65.
"We're calling on everyone to get our team signed up when this registration opens this week, and then help them get to the United Center," Lightfoot said. "We need moms, dads grandmas, grandpas, your neighbor, your auntie, your mother's cousin -- anybody who could lend a hand to our seniors. We need to get them there. And we need to get them vaccinated. Let's call this our 'SOS moment,' support our seniors."
Approximately 250,000 seniors in Chicago are still waiting to receive their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to Lightfoot. Adding in suburban Cook County, nearly half a million residents over 65 have to get the vaccine.
Feeling out of the loop? We'll catch you up on the Chicago news you need to know. Sign up for the weekly Chicago Catch-Up newsletter here.
In a push to transport seniors to the United Center, Uber partnered with Chicago officials to donate 20,000 free rides to help residents receive the coronavirus vaccine.
Though the rides are free to all Chicagoans across the city, Uber said the company is looking to target residents on the South and West Sides "to help close equity gaps on vaccination access."
"By working with partners like FEMA, Zocdoc, United Center and Uber, we will be able to take significant steps forward in our mission to vaccinate all of our residents," Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "Though we are not yet out of the dark tunnel we've been in since COVID-19 first came to our city, programs like these have made the light at the end of it that much brighter."
Uber also announced a new coronavirus vaccination center at the United Center called Uber Zone, which opens in March.
The Uber Zone is a temperature-controlled facility for riders leaving the United Center, which serves as a walk-in vaccination site, according to a release. A nearby United Center parking lot will act as a drive-through vaccination site, as well, Uber said.
“Throughout this pandemic we’ve maintained operations to provide essential services to Chicagoans and have taken multiple steps to ensure that safety is at the forefront of everything we’ve done," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said. "This is just the latest effort in our ongoing commitment to provide communities we serve with support they need during this unprecedented time, and we thank Mayor Lightfoot for allowing us to play a role in this critical effort.”
Starting next month, Chicago's United Center will become a mass COVID vaccination site, offering up doses to thousands of people each day.
The United Center site will open on March 10 through a partnership of Chicago and Illinois authorities with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Crews were setting up in the parking lot of the arena on Friday morning.
The United Center site will be able to administer 6,000 shots per day at full capacity, officials said, but noting 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.
Officials said the United Center vaccination site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks by appointment only, and that information about where and how to make appointments would be made available in coming days.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said Friday that seniors will have first access to appointments before the site opens in an exclusive registration period. If any appointments are still available afterwards, the remaining slots will be open to all Illinoisans eligible under the state's current Phase 1B Plus guidelines.
Once the site opens on March 10, registration will remain open for all Illinois residents eligible in Phase 1B Plus, which includes seniors, essential workers and residents with certain high-risk health conditions.
For a look at who is eligible to be vaccinated at the United Center under Phase 1B Plus, click here.