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Illinois to open federal mass vaccination site at United Center

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CHICAGO, Ill. – Parking lots of the United Center will soon host a new mass vaccination site for Illinoisans. Gov. JB Pritzker says the site will have the capacity to give 6,000 doses of vaccine per day.

The home of the Chicago Bulls and Blackhawks will open as a vaccination site on March 10. But, construction is already underway. This will be one of the several community vaccination centers led by the Biden administration. Doses will come directly from the federal government instead of taking vaccine away from the allotment for the state and the city of Chicago.

Leaders explained seniors will have exclusive access to appointments before the site officially opens. However, FEMA hasn’t set dates for those appointments at this time. Reporters asked how Pritzker could guarantee this facility would create easier access for those in need compared to wealthy Chicagoans.

“In the city of Chicago, in Cook County, and across the state, we’ve all made and are continuing to make efforts to attract people of color to people who are most vulnerable to making those appointments, giving them access wherever we can. Having a site in a location like the United Center makes it more easily accessible,” Pritzker emphasized.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said rideshare service Uber will provide 20,000 free rides to help people get to the site. Information about scheduling appointments for vaccinations should become available in the coming days.

“With this new site, we’ll now be able to take our vaccination success to a whole new level and bring to bear the historic and inclusive recovery that is soon to come,” Lightfoot explained.

Getting Black and brown residents vaccinated

Still, the state has a significant issue getting Black and Latinx Illinoisans vaccinated. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin explained a recent study showed minority neighborhoods in Chicago had a vaccination rate of 5%. The majority-white areas of Chicago currently report 13% of the population vaccinated. Durbin says the United Center site should help.

“The faster we can get people vaccinated, the more quickly we can escape the grip that this pandemic has had on our nation for so long, the less likely we’re gonna see mutations and variations which we have to fight in different ways,” Durbin added.

The Springfield native said the federal government could provide more help with vaccine distribution bypassing the American Rescue Plan. President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve the $1.9 trillion package with specific portions going to mass vaccination sites and $1,400 stimulus checks.

Pritzker noted things are getting better in the long battle with COVID-19.

“Someday not too far from now, we’ll be at the United Center not for a life-saving shot, but for a game-winning shot,” Pritzker said.

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Mike Miletich

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