The United Center in Chicago recently became COVID central for receiving the shot in the Chicago land area. Promoted as a federally-sponsored state-wide facility, a last-minute change in residency requirements was made after it was discovered only 40% of appointments had gone to city residents.
Chicago is 30% African American. Cook County, where Chicago is located is 28% African American. The state of Illinois is 14.2% African American and 61% White. In the state of Illinois 74.5% of all vaccine doses administered so far have been to white residents. Prior to the opening of the United Center for the COVID vaccine, 8.2% of African Americans in Illinois had received the shot. By stipulating the residency requirements, thus limiting the number of eligible persons to receive the vaccine, there should be an increase in African Americans getting the shot.
“I’ve said since the very beginning that what we can’t do is let the vaccine distribution exacerbate inequalities that existed frankly long before COVID-19,”said Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker.
“We want to be very targeted and very focused on bringing people from those neighborhoods and zip codes that have been so significantly challenged throughout the pandemic,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
A spokesperson for FEMA confirmed their role in limiting remaining appointments to Chicago residents, saying, “We use data from the CDC’s social vulnerability index, and work with our state partners to locate community vaccination centers where they will be able to do the most good for the most vulnerable populations…it was agreed by all that these changes were necessary to ensure this goal was met.”
A second website is now being established for suburban Cook County residents to sign up for vaccine appointments at the United Center, as well.
At full capacity, the federally-run site expects to administer 6,000 doses a day. It will remain open seven days a week for eight weeks, as people get their first and second shots. The 30,000-square-foot facility under half a dozen climate-controlled tents begins with a check-in station. After checking in, people with appointments will be led to one of three dozen vaccination stations, all spaced 6 feet apart, with shots administered by a medical team from the 101st Airborne, who arrived in Chicago Friday.
The facility also includes a post-injection observation tent as well as bathroom facilities and shuttle services.
Walk-up vaccinations will be done in Parking Lot E, northeast of the arena. Drive-up vaccinations will be in Parking Lot C. People who need parking can use Lot A.