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United Center mass COVID-19 vaccination site could give out thousands of shots per day

Ald. Walter Burnett confirmed that officials with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office are planning to hold a news conference to announce the site and said the United Center has “the plans ready and they’re ready to do it.”

Officials are planning to stand up a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center.
Officials are planning to stand up a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

UPDATE: Officials announced the United Center will open to mass vaccinations starting March 10. Read more here.

Authorities are expected to announce plans to stand up a mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the United Center during a Friday new conference.

Crain’s on Thursday first reported that the new vaccination site will use a combination of drive-through and temporary walk-up facilities and could be used to inoculate thousands of people each day.

On Thursday, Rep. La Shawn Ford, a Democrat whose 8th District includes portions of Chicago’s West Side, said the site will be used to administer thousands of daily vaccine doses to people over the age of 65.

Ald. Walter Burnett, whose 27th Ward includes the United Center, said officials with Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office are planning to hold a news conference to announce the site Friday. He noted that the United Center has “the plans ready and they’re ready to do it.”

Burnett noted the United Center is “the ideal spot” to raise vaccination numbers in areas that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“I’m excited about it,” he said.

The state on Thursday said a record 130,000 doses had been administered Wednesday, and Pritzker said he expected to be receiving more than 100,000 doses a day from the federal government by mid-March.

His office wouldn’t immediately confirm the reporting about the mass vaccination site, but a spokeswoman said the governor “believes the Biden Administration’s efforts to launch high capacity vaccination sites across the country are essential to equity, and he appreciates the robust collaboration with the President and his team.” Crain’s reported that two federal agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Defense, will lead the effort, with assistance from local officials.

“Our partners at Cook County and in the City of Chicago are also essential to our collective success, especially as we work together to make sure we’re ready to use the increasing supply of vaccine in the most equitable way possible,” spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement.

During a press call Thursday afternoon, Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, declined to comment on any near-term plans for the United Center, though she’s said in the past the location made sense once there’s enough vaccine available.

Arwady said the city is not close to getting enough vaccine supply to quickly vaccinate the hundreds of thousands of residents 65 and older and essential workers who are currently eligible to get shots. She’s hoping by the end of March “a big chunk of this group” will be vaccinated.

Specifically, the city is almost 500,000 doses short to vaccinate all the Chicago residents who are eligible for shots as seniors or essential workers.