UPDATE, March 10, 2021 — Chicago residents who live in the following zip codes can sign up to receive the vaccine at the United Center: 60608, 60619, 60620, 60649, 60652. Book your appointment here, using voucher code CCVICHICAGO.

Courtesy of the City of Chicago.

The new mass vaccination site opening at the United Center this week is expected to administer about 110,000 total vaccines throughout its eight-week duration, according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

To date, approximately 40,000 seniors — ages 65 and up — across Illinois have booked appointments at the United Center. 

“Honoring our commitment to open up appointments to people with underlying conditions, there were a limited number of appointments, in the vicinity of 10,000 that were made only for city of Chicago residents,” Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said today about Sunday’s sign-up block.

According to Arwady, the number of appointments booked at the United Center “is in the vicinity of 50,000,” with the number constantly fluctuating based on cancellations.

Lightfoot and Arwady spoke on the registration process Tuesday morning at a joint press conference with Gov. J.B. Pritzker, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, FEMA Acting Administrator Bob Fenton Jr., 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. and more. 

Registration for the United Center vaccination site opened exclusively for seniors on Thursday, March 4. It lasted through Sunday, March 7, when registration was scheduled to also open for residents under age 65 who fall within the state’s 1B+ vaccination phase which also covers frontline essential workers, inmates, and persons aged 16 to 64 years with high-risk medical conditions such as COPD and immunodeficiencies.


However, on Sunday, March 7, many people complained about long wait times when they called the city’s hotline at 312-746-4835 to book appointments. They also complained about the Zocdoc website crashing as they tried to book appointments online.

On Sunday afternoon, Pritzker’s office released a statement, saying that less than 40% of the 40,000 appointments booked were made by Chicago residents. Because of this, FEMA, alongside state and local officials, restricted appointments on Zocdoc so that residents outside of Cook County were no longer eligible for appointments at the United Center site.

For now, registration for the United Center mass vaccination site is closed and will reopen later this week, according to Arwady.

Pritzker called the vaccination site at the United Center one of the nation’s largest, expected to administer up to 6,000 shots per day. The United Center vaccination site will operate seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m., according to the city’s website. The site is available only to those with appointments, as there is no onsite registration. The Pfizer vaccine is being distributed at the United Center site.

“We’ve been able to extend eligibility to an additional 3.4 million people, and our statewide positivity rate is at an all-time low,” Pritzker says. The state’s current positivity rate is 2.8%. “But we aren’t out of the woods yet. I have to remind everyone to stay masked up.”

To date, approximately 40,000 seniors across Illinois have booked appointments to be vaccinated at the United Center. Mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks about this at a press conference on March 9, 2021. Photo by Alexander Gouletas // The TRiiBE
27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. praised officials for opening the United Center as a mass vaccination site. Photo by Alexander Gouletas // The TRiiBE

According to their acting administrator, Bob Fenton Jr., FEMA was deployed by President Joe Biden to provide assistance in vaccination distribution efforts to states, territories, local governments, and tribes, with an emphasis on aiding underserved communities.

“We’re focused on equity, which means providing the vaccine to the most vulnerable and most affected,” Fenton says. “It’s gonna take a whole community effort. That’s all levels of government — private sector, faith-based organizations and community organizations.”

Ald. Burnett called on Chicagoans to ignore conspiracy theories about microchips in the vaccine. 

“If you have a cell phone, they got a chip with you anyway, get rid of your phone! You got OnStar in the car? Get rid of your car cause they got a chip in it,” he says. “Eventually jobs are gonna tell you you can’t work here without it. Some churches are going to tell you that you can’t come into this church without the vaccine. We all need to get this vaccine.” 

According to Arwady, officials did not make all vaccination appointments available at the United Center on purpose. However, once they look over the sign-up data and make adjustments, more appointments will become available and people will be able to get the vaccine. She expects that the city will move to vaccinating those within the 1C phase— which is still in draft form— at the end of March.

Here are more details on United Center vaccinations, from Pritzker’s Office.

For city of Chicago residents: Appointments on Zocdoc will now be restricted to Chicago residents. Appointments will also be set aside for Chicago residents who live in high CCVI (COVID Community Vulnerability Index) ZIP codes and/or ZIP codes with low vaccination rates, allowing anyone from these ZIP codes to register. 

More information will be provided on eligible ZIP codes and the subsequent registration process later this week. Appointment blocks will be provided to community-based organizations for targeted outreach to special populations in Chicago, including people with disabilities.

For suburban Cook County: To ensure equitable access by suburban Cook County residents, Cook County has been allocated appointment slots at the United Center. The county will announce the process of scheduling those appointments in the coming days through the news media and at vaccine.cookcountyil.gov.  For vaccine access in suburban Cook County, individuals without access to technology can call 833-308-1988 Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m, to 7:00 p.m.

For the rest of Illinois: The state will take a portion of the remaining doses and deploy additional mobile vaccination teams to communities hit hardest by COVID-19 outside of Cook County. More information on these mobile vaccination teams will be shared in the coming weeks.

is a staff writer with The TRiiBE. Email him with news tips.