Following additional FEMA guidance, federal, state, county and city officials today announced a shift in eligibility for the United Center Federal Mass Vaccination Center in order to ensure equity in vaccine distribution and that the people and communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic have access to the vaccine. While more than 40,000 seniors have secured appointments at the United Center site since registration opened Thursday morning which will all continue to be honored, less than 40 percent of these appointments were made by Chicago residents. This site was located in the City of Chicago where it would be in close proximity to the most vulnerable populations in the city. The United Center site is a part of the Biden Administration’s strategy to focus additional effort on particularly vulnerable communities. This site was selected, and an additional allocation was made available to the City, to achieve this goal. Based on the early registration data, it became apparent this was not occurring, leading FEMA to provide additional guidance related to the site to better target communities hit hardest by the virus, including ones surrounding the vaccination site on the city’s West Side.
In response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, State of Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago announced a renewed focus on ensuring equitable access to the vaccine. The modified guidance for the site is as follows:
- CITY OF CHICAGO: Appointment access will open to those eligible under the state’s Phase 1B+ (anyone 18 and over with underlying health conditions as well as anyone 65+) at 4 pm Sunday. Appointments on Zocdoc will now be restricted to City of Chicago residents;
- Appointments will also be set aside for Chicago residents who live in high CCVI (COVID Community Vulnerability Index) ZIP codes and/or ZIP codes with low vaccination rates, allowing anyone from these ZIP codes to register. More information will be provided on eligible ZIP codes and the subsequent registration process later this week.
- Appointment blocks will be provided to community-based organizations for targeted outreach to special populations in Chicago, including people with disabilities.
- SUBURBAN COOK COUNTY: To ensure equitable access by suburban Cook County residents, Cook County has been allocated appointment slots at the United Center. Cook County will announce the process of scheduling those appointments in the coming days through the news media and through vaccine.cookcountyil.gov. For vaccine access in suburban Cook County, individuals without access to technology can call 833-308-1988 Monday through Friday from 7am to 7pm.
- REST OF ILLINOIS: The state will take a portion of the remaining doses and deploy additional mobile vaccination teams to communities hit hardest by COVID-19 outside of Cook County. More information on these mobile vaccination teams will be shared in the coming weeks. Beginning today at 4pm, residents outside of Cook County will no longer be eligible for appointments at the United Center site. Residents outside of the City of Chicago can continue to find information on how to make appointments on coronavirus.illinois.gov.
Many communities in Chicago that have been hardest hit by the virus and experienced the highest rates of severe illness and death have some of the lowest rates of vaccination.
“FEMA is committed to the equitable distribution of the vaccine, especially to communities of color in Chicago,” said FEMA Region 5 Acting Regional Administrator Kevin M. Sligh, Sr. “We support our partners in making these changes which will ensure those communities hardest hit by the virus are able to get the most effective tool to bringing it under control.”
“We are grateful for the federal government’s support in providing additional opportunities for seniors throughout the state of Illinois to receive the vaccine,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With state-supported mass vaccination sites and mobile teams already operating throughout the state, we look forward to using additional doses from the United Center site to build on this robust effort and reach our communities hit hardest by COVID-19.”
“We are fully aware of the devastating impacts COVID-19 has had on our vulnerable communities,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We are committed to an equitable distribution of the vaccine targeting our seniors and communities that have been most dramatically impacted.”
“Equity is central to our COVID-19 strategy, and as we strive to vaccinate the entire city, our commitment to equity is more important than ever,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Here in Chicago, our team has been working around the clock to ensure all our city’s residents are vaccinated, especially our seniors, who are among our must vulnerable to this disease. That’s why we’re also calling on everyone to help get our seniors signed up when registration opens, and then help get them to the United Center when it’s time for their appointment to receive this life-saving treatment.”
Chicago residents who are seniors or those who qualify under 1B+ can continue to make appointments online via Zocdoc or through the multilingual call center. All seniors who have already registered will be vaccinated on their appointment date, regardless of residency in the City of Chicago, suburban Cook County, or other parts of Illinois. Seniors and individuals in 1B+ throughout the state of Illinois are encouraged to visit one of the 18 state-supported mass vaccine sites open for them, with additional sites coming online this week. For more information, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov.
Tens of thousands of open appointment slots remain for the United Center. Chicago residents that are eligible by the State of Illinois’s definition of 1B+ can book appointments by visiting www.zocdoc.com/vaccine or contacting the call center at 312-746-4835. Since the exclusive registration period for seniors opened on Thursday morning, the City has significantly expanded its capacity at the multilingual call center and is encouraging seniors to call to book their appointments. The center is staffed Monday through Saturday from 8am to 8pm and Sunday from 8am to 4pm. Slots are set aside for the call center so people who don’t have internet access will not lose the opportunity to make appointments.
The United Center site was opened as part of the Biden Administration’s pilot to establish Community Vaccination Centers across the country. Officials will begin to administer a limited number of vaccines there on March 9, with a full opening March 10. It has the capacity to administer 6,000 doses per day, all of which will be provided directly by the federal government and not taken out of the state or city’s allotment.