First shots administered at United Center mass vaccination site

About 6,000 shots are expected to be administered daily.

SHARE First shots administered at United Center mass vaccination site
People lined up Tuesday for a COVID-19 vaccination outside the United Center.

People lined up Tuesday for a COVID-19 vaccination outside the United Center.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

People emerged with smiles on their faces and stickers on their chests after some initial delays in getting people through the front door Tuesday on the opening day of operations at the mass vaccination site outside the United Center.

Ken Molitoris, 75, of North Park, offered an assessment shared by many.

“In and out, no problem,” he said. “It was real smooth, especially for the first day! I’m real pleased.”

After clearing up the initial jam, which caused some confusion because appointments are required, a steady flow of people over 65 made their way to a tent erected in a parking lot across the street from the United Center.

Parking was available in an adjacent lot where uniformed soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division helped shuttle people who asked for assistance to and from the site in wheelchairs.

About 6,000 shots per day will be administered at the federally run site.

A total of about 185,000 people are expected to be vaccinated at the site over the course of eight weeks.

After booking about 50,000 appointments in recent days, the online booking process was suspended but is expected to reopen later this week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner, said at a news conference.

There is no on-site registration for shots at the United Center. Several people who showed up without an appointment hoping to get a shot were turned away Tuesday morning.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker said that despite significant progress in rolling out the vaccine and keeping the state’s positivity rate down, people should still wear masks.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” he said Tuesday.

A total of about 3.4 million doses had been administered to state residents, he said.

“One in five Illinoisans have had at least a first dose,” Pritzker said.

On Sunday, after realizing that less than 40% of people who signed up for a shot were from Chicago, restrictions were put in place to ensure Chicagoans from neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic will be able to get an appointment.

Lightfoot and Arwady said more details will be released this week about availability at the United Center site for people who live outside the city.

The focus of remaining doses at the United Center will be largely on people 65 and older, Arwady said.

The vaccines allotted to the United Center site are in addition to allotments the city and state regularly receive.

Robert Fenton, acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is overseeing the United Center vaccination site, sought to reassure any undocumented immigrants that getting a vaccine won’t land anyone in hot water with immigration authorities.

The Department of Homeland Security pledged not to conduct immigration enforcement at vaccination sites, Fenton said.

Appointments for the United Center can be made online at https://www.zocdoc.com/vaccine or by calling 312-746-4835.

Arwady said the city is looking into using the vaccination center after the eight weeks it will be run by personnel from the federal government.

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) urged people in the Black community to get vaccinated and to dismiss false rumors like the vaccines contain microchips.

“That’s insane. That’s insanity,” he said.

“Let me tell you, if you got a cellphone, they got a chip with you anyway, so you all should throw away your cellphones right now if that’s what you’re worried about,” he said.

“We need to get this vaccine so everyone around us can be healthy,” Burnett said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday marked the opening day of the mass vaccination site outside the United Center.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday marked the opening day of the mass vaccination site outside the United Center.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A COVID-19 vaccination center being constructed in a parking lot at the United Center,

The COVID-19 vaccination center while it was being constructed in a parking lot at the United Center,

Scott Olson/Getty

The Latest
Perch and other summer fishing around Chicago leads this sprawling raw-file Midwest Fishing Report.
Three people were shot in Lake View East, where police had stepped up patrols after the Pride Parade.
The fire began in the basement of a house in the 4000 block of West Potomac Avenue early Sunday, officials said.
Two train passengers and one person in the truck were killed, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Devastated survivors struggle to grieve as the deceased’s great-granddaughter calls attention to herself.