Chicago’s United Center is set to become a mass vaccination center.
Officials are scheduled to announce tomorrow that the home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks will serve as an inoculation site against COVID-19, Ald. Walter Burnett confirmed Thursday.
A source with knowledge of the plan but who was not authorized to speak publicly about it said the site would be able to vaccinate up to 6,000 individuals per day.
That would make it the largest mass vaccination site in the state by far. Crain’s was the first to report the new site.
The mass vaccination site is designed as a way to particularly reach Black and brown communities, populations that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the source said
When asked for details on Thursday, Gov. JB Pritzker’s office issued this statement praising the federal plan to open the site.
“Governor Pritzker 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,” a Pritzker spokeswoman said. “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.”
The center will offer vaccinations in the surrounding parking lots and will offer the vaccine both for drive-thru and for walk-ins, the source told WBEZ.
Recent statewide data showed Black and Latino residents lagged far behind white residents of the state in getting a vaccine.
Illinois has trailed other states in getting the second doses of vaccines into the arms of individuals. The source told WBEZ that the vaccines that will be distributed at the United Center will be in addition to the allotment that the state and city already receive.
The source also said there will be no residency requirements to receive the vaccine at the United Center.
The operation will be managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and staffed by the Department of Defense. State, county and city officials will coordinate with the agencies.
Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady Thursday declined to comment on the new site, but said the city is always looking to expand vaccine administration.
Tony Arnold covers state politics and Claudia Morell covers City Hall for WBEZ.