A shot in the arm will soon give thousands of Illinoisans a fluttery feeling in the pits of their stomachs, a disorienting sensation of flight and a rush of adrenaline.
Those aren’t side effects of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccines that are readily available to anyone as young as 12 — they’re now being offered as a reward for rolling up your sleeve.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Thursday announced Six Flags Great America is offering up 50,000 free tickets to its amusement parks in Gurnee and Rockford to newly vaccinated residents, the state’s latest effort to incentivize inoculation, especially for the youngsters who became eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine this week.
“Thanks to the life saving power of vaccinations, it feels once again like summer is in the air,” Pritzker said in front of the north suburban park’s famous double-decker carousel. “For many people, the protection from COVID-19 is more than enough reason to get vaccinated … but I also know that other people might need a little bit more of an incentive.”
The $4 million worth of tickets that were donated by Six Flags are geared toward communities of color that “have historically seen less investment” and might be on the fence about getting a shot, the governor said.
Some of the tickets will be given away outside the park itself, where an Illinois National Guard mobile vaccination team will set up shop the first weekend of June. Other tickets will be given out by local health departments in the north suburbs, along with other community groups in Cook County and elsewhere across the Chicago region.
“Especially for 12- to 15-year-olds, it is absolutely an incentive to get to visit the park,” Six Flags president Hank Salemi said. “I am 100% confident this will motivate vaccinations. That’s why we’re doing it at the end of the day.”
Pritzker’s health team has already toyed with a couple of motivating tactics, including free shooting targets to downstate vaccine recipients and free tickets to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.
Pritzker didn’t rule out a multi-million dollar lottery game like the one announced earlier this week in Ohio.
“We’re going to use our resources as wisely as we can and incentivize people as best we can,” he said.
That’s becoming increasingly necessary as vaccine demand dwindles across Illinois. About 62% of residents have gotten at least one shot, and about 37% are fully immunized, but the state is averaging barely 76,000 shots administered per day. That rate has fallen by 43% in the last month.
COVID-19 vaccine doses administered by day
Graphic by Jesse Howe and Caroline Hurley | Sun-Times
Source: Illinois Department of Public Health
Just 68,035 shots were given Wednesday, though that figure doesn’t include vaccinations at CVS pharmacies due to a reporting issue, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.
And while the state reported 35 more coronavirus deaths, most metrics are at their lowest levels in almost two months. The latest 1,918 cases were diagnosed among almost 89,000 tests, keeping the average statewide positivity rate at 2.7%.
That means the state will advance to the “bridge phase” of Pritzker’s reopening plan Friday — the final phase of loosened restrictions before a full reopening.
The bridge phase allows most venues — including Six Flags — to expand capacity to 60%. That will soon apply at Cubs and White Sox games, which will have designated sections for vaccinated fans. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also announced vaccinated patrons won’t count against capacity limits at city restaurants.
Barring a surge in cases, all pandemic restrictions will be lifted June 11 across most of the state — though Lightfoot has said the city is aiming more conservatively for July 4.
Almost 1.4 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Illinois since last year, and 22,320 of them have died.
To sign up for a vaccine appointment in Chicago, visit zocdoc.com or call (312) 746-4835.
For suburban Cook County sites, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.
To find providers elsewhere, visit coronavirus.illinois.gov or call (833) 621-1284.