Six Flags donates 50,000 free tickets to encourage youths to get vaccines

Six Flags Great America is offering 50,000 free tickets to people getting vaccinated as part of a partnership with the state of Illinois intended to spur vaccinations among younger teenagers, who were authorized this week to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech version of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The Gurnee amusement park donated the tickets valued at a combined $4 million.

“I am 100% confident this will motivate vaccinations,” said Six Flags Great America President Hank Salemi. “It's an incredibly important initiative for us, and that's why we're making this commitment.”

There are close to 660,000 Illinois residents age 12 to 15, according to Illinois Department of Public Health figures.

The tickets will be issued by county health departments and mobile vaccination clinics across the suburbs. During the first weekend in June, Six Flags will also hold vaccination clinics on site where the tickets will be made available, officials said.

If the clinics prove popular, more dates will be added.

“This is for the people who haven't had time yet to get vaccinated or need that extra push. This will push them in the right direction,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said at the amusement park Thursday.

The tickets can be used for admission to the Gurnee park or at Six Flags Hurricane Harbor in Rockford, Six Flags officials said.

The announcement comes as many vaccination sites throughout the state began inoculating anyone over age 12 with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. A federal panel approved its use on 12- to 15-year-olds Wednesday. The vaccine is given as two doses three weeks apart.

Pritzker said the state is looking at a bevy of incentives to boost vaccinations.

State health officials Thursday reported 68,035 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were given in the previous 24 hours. But that figure doesn't reflect doses administered by the national pharmacy chain CVS because of reporting issues the company experienced. The CVS figures will be added in the coming days, officials said.

So far, 10,179,004 vaccine doses have been administered statewide and 4,656,004 people have been fully vaccinated against the virus, according to IDPH records. The state is reporting 62% of adults in Illinois have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

IDPH officials on Wednesday also reported 35 more deaths from the respiratory disease. Seventeen are from Chicago and the suburban counties, including a man in his 20s, and 18 are from downstate. The state's death toll is 22,320 since the outset of the pandemic.

Another 1,918 new cases were also diagnosed in the previous 24 hours, IDPH reported Wednesday. So far, 1,361,666 Illinoisans have been infected by the virus.

Hospitals in the state are treating 1,765 COVID-19 patients, the fewest since April 6, and 465 of them are in intensive care beds.

The state's seven-day case positivity rate is 2.7%. Case positivity is derived from the number of new cases diagnosed from a batch of tests.

Illinois is set to enter the Bridge Phase of the state's reopening plan Friday as new cases and hospitalizations continue to dwindle.

“Illinoisans have worked so hard over the past year and a half to keep their families and neighbors safe, and reaching Bridge Phase means that we're closer than ever to a return to normalcy,” Pritzker said. “To keep up this progress, I urge every eligible Illinoisan — now including 12- to 15-year-olds — to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

Among the many changes affecting businesses, Six Flags Great America will go from being allowed 25% capacity to 60% in the Bridge Phase. The state is slated to move to a full reopening by June 11 if key health metrics continue to decrease or remain stable, state health officials said.

There are other opportunities for younger teenagers to receive their vaccinations as well. Mundelein High School is hosting an event open to anyone but aimed at younger teenagers, May 27, with a follow-up second dose slated for June 17. Scheduling is available through the Jewel-Osco vaccine locator website,

And, Republican state Sen. Dan McConchie of Hawthorn Woods is hosting a clinic in a partnership with Walgreens and the village of Algonquin on Saturday, with a second dose scheduled for June 5.

The clinic will be held at the Algonquin Public Works building and registration is available through the Walgreens vaccination scheduling website,

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