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Tinley Park gets first large vaccination site in Cook County suburbs as state moves into next stage of inoculation plan

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other officials unveiled the site Monday as the state moves into a new phase of the state’s vaccination program, one that will allow frontline essential workers and those 65 and over to begin receiving the inoculations.

The first large-scale vaccination center in the Cook County suburbs is scheduled to open on Tuesday, an appointment-only site in Tinley Park that officials say will eventually be able to administer 18,000 shots a week.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and other officials unveiled the site Monday as the state moves into a new phase of the state’s vaccination program, one allowing frontline essential workers and those 65 and over to begin receiving the inoculations.

But despite moving ahead to Phase 1B of the immunization plan, one county health official cautioned the process would be a “marathon, and not a sprint.”

The vaccination site, located at the Tinley Park Convention Center in the southwest suburb, will begin offering vaccinations by appointment only, starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and will be able administer 9,000 vaccinations a week initially and double that when the state’s federal supply of doses increases, Pritzker said.

“Widespread vaccination sites will allow us to quickly and efficiently get these life-saving doses to Illinoisans as more federal shipments of vaccine come online,” Pritzker said.

The Tinley Park location is the first of at least five larger vaccination sites opening across suburban Cook County in the coming days and weeks, Preckwinkle said.

It will be the seventh new vaccination site set up in Cook County — similar efforts are ramping up in regions all across the state, with approximately 25 more National Guard teams set to launch in the next few weeks to help vaccinate the state’s residents, Pritzker said.

Monday marks the start of Illinois’ Phase 1B of COVID-19 vaccinations, which broadly includes those 65 and over and those classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as frontline essential workers — including teachers, first responders and grocery workers.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Gov. J.B. Pritzker take a tour of the first large-scale community vaccination site in suburban Cook County as it prepares to open in the Tinley Park Convention Center.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Gov. J.B. Pritzker take a tour of the first large-scale community vaccination site in suburban Cook County as it prepares to open in the Tinley Park Convention Center.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Israel Rocha Jr., the CEO of Cook County Health, urged patience as the county, and the state, works to distribute vaccines.

“Every single individual who wants a vaccine can get a vaccine, and we are committed to being your partner in that effort,” Rocha said. “If ever there was a phrase ‘this is a marathon, and not a sprint’ that is today. We are anxious to vaccinate all the people that are able to receive the shot, but patience is needed as the federal government works up to ramp up production.”

Rocha said the county’s Department of Public Health has distributed vaccines to more than 90 other locations throughout suburban Cook County, including to Walgreens, Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, as well as other hospitals and federally qualified health centers,

Preckwinkle joined the governor in celebrating the county’s major development in vaccination efforts as it plans to continue Phase 1A and begin Phase 1B. She said while the current supply doesn’t meet the demand, the county is setting up large scale sites to “ensure that we’re ready as vaccine continues to be distributed in Cook County, in partnership with the state of Illinois.

The first large-scale community vaccination site in suburban Cook County opened last week in the Tinley Park Convention Center.
The first large-scale community vaccination site in suburban Cook County is scheduled to open Tuesday in the Tinley Park Convention Center.
Brian Rich/Sun-Times

“We stand ready to contribute to [President Joe Biden’s] goal of vaccinating 100 million people in the first 100 days,” Preckwinkle said.

Pritzker said he’s had “numerous conversations” with members of Biden’s administration about when Illinois may see an increase in the vaccine supply, but the governor said he has not been told when that will occur.

Those who fit the 1B criteria will be able to sign up for an appointment at the county’s site starting Monday at noon and learn more about the vaccine and where they can get it on the state’s website.

A hotline also has been set up to help people schedule a vaccine appointment, at 833-308-1988, Preckwinkle said.