No plans for similar site for downstate population
By GRACE BARBIC
Capitol News Illinois
State and federal officials on Friday announced a new federal mass COVID-19 vaccination site will be opening March 10 at the United Center in Chicago.
The new site will prioritize access for seniors and be open to any Phase 1B-plus eligible residents throughout the state, which now includes those 16 years of age or older with underlying conditions.
“The United Center is one of the best locations for vaccinating large numbers of people in America: 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,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at a briefing in Chicago.
Currently there are no plans for a federally supported mass vaccination site of the same magnitude to operate in central or downstate Illinois, but Pritzker said “for now…our Illinois National Guard are opening mass vaccination sites all across the state.”
“As more vaccines arrive, we will be opening more of those sites and assisting our local public health departments in doing that,” Pritzker said.
The addition of the United Center means Illinois now has 15 state supported mass vaccination sites, including locations in Springfield, Rockford, Carbondale and Metro East. There are also 97 vaccination sites operated by local public health departments across the state, as well as private pharmacy chains.
Pritzker was joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth at a press conference Friday in Chicago to make the announcement.
The United Center Community Vaccination Center, managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will have the capacity to administer 6,000 doses per day with vaccine supply being delivered directly to the new facility from the federal government. This allotment will be separate from the state and city of Chicago’s existing supply from the federal government.
The vaccine that will be supplied at this site could include the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine, Pritzker said, but that is dependent on whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel grants the vaccine Emergency Use Authorization. The panel was set to meet Friday to make a final decision.
The United Center will be a “federally-supported, state managed, locally executed evolution,” said Kevin Sligh, acting administrator for FEMA Region 5. The mass vaccination site will be supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, the state of Illinois, Cook County and the city of Chicago.
Vaccinations at the site will be administered by appointment only, with seniors age 65 years or older granted first access to vaccination appointments before the site opens in early March. There is not a set date that the advanced appointment access for seniors will open, but Pritzker said it will be sometime before the site opens for operation.
Once the site opens on March 10, appointments will be available to the remaining Phase 1B-plus eligible residents, which includes non-health care frontline essential workers, inmates and those 16 years or older with underlying conditions.
Details about how the United Center vaccination site will operate are still being worked out, but tentatively it will be operating from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the parking lot of the United Center, Brian Schiller, a FEMA official, said.
Federally supported pilot community vaccination centers similar to the United Center will be opening across the nation as part of the Biden administration’s effort to vaccinate underserved communities, according to a news release.
More information about the new site or how to make a vaccination appointment can be found at coronavirus.illinois.gov.
News about the new vaccination site came as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to decline in Illinois, with the statewide seven-day rolling positivity rate remaining at 2.5 percent Friday.
Illinois has administered more than 2.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to residents across the state, including 307,382 for long-term care residents. Pritzker said about one in seven Illinois residents have received at least the first dose of the vaccine. That’s out of 3.17 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines received thus far.
“The White House has nearly doubled the weekly supply of doses coming to the state via direct shipments and other programs like the federal retail pharmacy program,” Pritzker said. “And based on public commitments from the federal government and from vaccine manufacturers, Illinois expects to receive an average of at 100,000 doses per day by mid-March.”
On Thursday, 102,670 doses were reported administered in Illinois, marking the second-highest reported one-day amount of vaccines administered to date. The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily is 68,988 doses.
The state reported 2,441 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 Friday from 92,256 test results reported, including 55 additional deaths.
As of Thursday night, 1,393 patients were reported in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 336 patients were reported in intensive care unit beds and 174 patients on ventilators.
Illinois reported a total of 1.18 million cases of COVID-19 out of 17.9 million total test results reported, including 20,460 virus-related deaths since the pandemic started.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.