That Cook County text message about vaccine appointments isn't spam
Cook County residents puzzled by text messages about COVID-19 vaccinations from out-of-town area codes can be assured the messages are bona fide, health department officials said Monday.
"We are contacting you because you signed up to receive COVID-19 vaccine updates ... we are pleased to announce that Cook County Health has released additional availability of vaccines appointments," said text messages some people received on their phones over the weekend.
The messages came from phone numbers in states including Ohio and Maryland, leading some people to avoid clicking the appointment link out of concern it was spam.
Cook County Health Department spokesman Don Bolger said the messages were legitimate and that the county has outsourced some of its communications to help handle the wave of people seeking information about vaccines.
But with not enough vaccines to fill needs, appointments are being snapped up.
In one case, a text sent at 4:15 p.m. Sunday with news about open slots for inoculations was followed by an 8:16 p.m. message stating that all vaccination sites "had been fully booked. More will be released as vaccine is received. Please be patient."
On Monday, the department announced that a mass vaccination site will open Wednesday at Triton College in River Grove with the ability to give more than 4,000 shots a week.
Currently, vaccinations are available for long-term care residents and health care workers (Phase 1A), and people age 65 and older plus essential workers (Phase 1B). Essential workers are those who need to be physically present at their jobs during the pandemic, such as firefighters, day-care workers, bus drivers, factory workers and grocery store employees.
Vaccinations at the Triton College site will serve people in Phase 1B and are by appointment only, which can be made starting at 9 a.m. Tuesday. To schedule a shot, go to vaccine.cookcountyil.gov, where individuals can also sign up for vaccine information.
Residents without access to the internet or who need help scheduling, can call (833) 308-1988 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.
The county intends to open more mass sites in the coming weeks.