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:
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.