Illinois politicians demand change to United Center vaccine procedure
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The United Center mass vaccination site is now available to residents living in four additional ZIP codes on Chicago's South and West Sides.
"Equity drives all vaccine distribution in Chicago, and we want to ensure that residents from the communities that have been most disproportionately impacted by the pandemic have access to this lifesaving vaccine," said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot in a news release Saturday. "For the last week, 59 percent of those who received at least one vaccine dose are Black or Latinx, which matches the demographics of our city."
Currently, blocks of appointments have been set aside for targeted outreach to what the city calls people living in high-need ZIP codes.
List of eligible ZIP codes
A group of Illinois' Democratic U.S. House members sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday criticizing it's decision to restrict appointments to Chicago and Cook County residents on behalf of equity goals.
FEMA defended it's decision saying it was acting in the interest of the most vulnerable Illinoisans. But in the letter, members of Congress reminded the agency that people in the suburbs need help, too.
The letter reads in part, "We share and champion the goal of equitable distribution of the vaccine...Nevertheless, many of our constituents who fall in the vulnerable category ... felt frustrated with the recent determination to limit eligibility at the United Center..."
"I want to make sure that FEMA is getting those vaccines to everyone in Chicago, in the 10th district, in every community in Illinois," said U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider.
The letter was signed by 11 Illinois Democratic members of Congress.
There are people also in suburban areas that are not in Chicago where there are disadvantaged communities," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, who represents Chicago and western suburbs.
The remaining United Center appointments are being directed to people in five Chicago zip codes.
And in suburban Cook County, areas in the west and south will likely be targeted.
The state has said FEMA has pledged mobile vaccination sites in the collar counties, but some suburban leaders said they've yet to hear anything about that.
"There are vulnerable folks scattered everywhere," said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. "We need to do something more, and we need to do something soon."
The mayor of Morton Grove said more local control of distribution would help with seniors' transportation challenges.
"I know I would rather have our seniors come right here to our local village hall or American Legion center," Morton Grove Mayor Dan DiMaria said.
Those suburban mayors said seniors who don't have a car or anyone to help have had to use public transportation to get the vaccine, and in the suburbs, that can take hours.
Cook County Health opened up approximately 20,000 first-dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments at five different vaccination sites Friday at 12 p.m., which were quickly booked.
Appointments can be made at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or by calling the Cook County Health call center at 833-308-1988, Monday - Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The sites include:
- Tinley Park Convention Center (Moderna)
- Triton College (Pfizer)
- South Suburban College (Pfizer)
- North Riverside Health Center (Pfizer)
- Des Plaines* (Pfizer - week of March 15)
*Due to limited supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Cook County Health will provide the Pfizer vaccine at Des Plaines the week of March 15.
All vaccinations are by appointment only. Residents will be required to provide proof that they are in Phase 1A or 1B.
As with all Cook County Health sites, second-dose appointments will be scheduled on-site during the first-dose appointment.