Federal officials hope to vaccinate 6,000 per day at United Center
A mass vaccination site will open in the United Center parking lot in Chicago that will make COVID-19 vaccine inoculations available to anyone eligible in the state, federal officials announced Friday.
A White House news release said the site is expected to be "up and running in the next two weeks" and will be able to handle up to 6,000 vaccinations a day.
State officials suggested the site would be operational by March 10, while images on social media from the United Center show crews already at work building the site.
But questions remain unanswered from local, state and federal officials about the registration and vaccination process. State officials suggested Zocdoc.com or similar online health care scheduling portals would ultimately be used for eligible residents to find appointments, though nothing has been announced.
State and local officials also discussed transportation plans to help elderly residents get to the new site to be inoculated, but it did not disclose any specific plan.
Residents 65 and older initially will have priority before appointments are offered to others in the state's Phase 1B+ eligibility roster, which includes essential workers and medically vulnerable people under the age of 64.
Some have expressed concerns that not enough is being done to ensure only eligible residents are getting the vaccine. Most vaccination sites don't or can't require those considered to be medically vulnerable to show proof of their diagnosis.
"There's no way for the federal government to know what your comorbidity may be," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at Friday's announcement. "We need to rely on the honor of the people of Illinois to make sure that the right people get their vaccine."
Doses of the vaccine for the United Center will come from the federal government's stockpile and not from the state's allotment, state officials said.
"I want to say this is a true whole-of-government effort to further expand equitable vaccine access across the Chicagoland area," said Kevin Sligh, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Great Lakes region. "The United Center will be a federally supported, state-managed and locally executed evolution to support all the citizens of Illinois and the Chicago area."
Federal officials have committed $115 million and deployed nearly 200 people to Illinois to assist in vaccination efforts throughout the state.
The United Center site was chosen using the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "vulnerability index," which takes into account socioeconomic, age and racial data to ensure the best location for the most at-risk residents.
"The United Center is one of the best locations for vaccinating large numbers of people in America," Pritzker said. "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."