Chicago Expands Vaccine Eligibility, Opens Site Exclusively For Essential Unionized Workers

Prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes.
Prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press
Prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes.
Prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes. Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press

Chicago Expands Vaccine Eligibility, Opens Site Exclusively For Essential Unionized Workers

Chicago is opening a new vaccination site exclusively for current and former union workers considered essential and eligible for the inoculation under the city’s expanded 1C rollout, which began Monday.

That eligibility group includes all essential workers and Chicagoans between 16 and 64 years old with underlying conditions.

This latest group expands eligibility for the vaccine to 84% of the city’s population but also comes as Chicago continues to report an increase in its daily positivity rate, now hovering around 400 new cases a day. The uptick continues to be concentrated among younger Chicagoans who reside on the city’s North and Northwest sides.

Through a partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor, the vaccines for unionized workers will be provided out of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 headquarters at 2260 S. Grove St. near Chinatown.

All current, card-carrying union workers and retirees who live within city limits are eligible to apply for a vaccination slot by registering here. One up and running, the union hall is expected to handle 1,200 vaccinations a day.

“It’s our union, essential workers that make up the backbone of the city. That’s why we’re especially proud of this unique partnership,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.

This is believed to be the first-in-nation vaccination center run by organized labor, CFL President Bob Reiter said. CFL represents more than 300 construction, building trade and other labor unions in Chicago and suburban Cook County.

“Today is a new beginning and a huge step forward out of the darkness of the past year toward a brighter future,” Reiter said, adding that his organization will be working with its affiliate unions over the coming days to get the word out. “Two thirds of our members are Black and brown workers, and we must do everything we can to get this vaccine and the arms as quickly as possible.”

But with supplies still limited, appointments for Chicagoans in this next eligibility group will be available starting in April and will continue to May.

You can check your eligibility here. Essential workers include clergy, food, beverage and retail workers, as well as those who work in media, public health, public safety and transportation.

Underlying conditions include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disorders and several neurological disorders.

Claudia Morell covers City Hall for WBEZ. Follow @claudiamorell