CHICAGO (CBS) — Senior citizens in Chicago and in Illinois will exclusively be able to schedule their COVID vaccine appointments at the United Center starting Thursday morning.

The arena has the capacity to give out 6,000 shots per day. People who get inoculated at the United Center will be receiving the Pfizer vaccine.

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Starting Thursday at 8:30 a.m., seniors can schedule their first COVID-19 vaccine appointment at the United Center.

“In order for us to truly rise above this terrible pandemic, we must get our seniors vaccinated as fast and as humanely as possible,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “Because we see that in Chicago, regardless of the underlying conditions vaccinating older resonance, as a biggest impact on preventing coordinate COVID-19 related deaths, as more than 80% of the total number of COVID-related deaths in Chicago, happen in residents aged 60 and older.”

On March 10, according to Lightfoot, is when shots can start going into arms. There is no cost to get the vaccine.

After the exclusive appointment period for seniors, which ends on Sunday March 7, all Illinoisans eligible under the state’s Phase 1B+ can schedule appointments starting Sunday, March 7 at 4:00 p.m.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said, in terms of COVID cases in Chicago, she is pleased with the positive trend of COVID cases moving downward and added that the city is averaging 283 new COVID cases a day.

“That’s well under the 400, new cases per day where we really want to stay behind,” Arwady said. “We’re still not under 200 new cases per day, which is where we’d like to get, but the numbers are looking good and slowly bringing down the lowest it has ever been since COVID got to Chicago.

Arwady said Chicago’s COVID-19 test positivity rate was 2.9% as of Tuesday, the lowest it has been during the pandemic.

“We have been trending in the right direction and I congratulate Chicagoans for continuing to do the right thing in helping us contain the spread of the virus,” said Arwady. ”We need to keep it up so we can continue to reopen our city safely and smartly, and get back to doing the things we love.”

More than 110,000 appointments will be available to seniors over the course of three days when registration opens.

“If those 110,000 appointments don’t fill up, we would then open them up to people who are in that 1B+ category,” Arwady said.

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Those in the 1B+ category include individuals who have one or more of the following:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Pulmonary Diseases
  • Smoking
  • Heart Conditions
  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Cancer
  • Solid Organ Transplant
  • Sickle Cell Disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Persons with a Disability1 (Not otherwise covered in previous categories.)

There are two ways to make appointments:

*To register online, visit Zocdoc.com/vaccine. The web site is projected to handle much higher volume of appointment requests. Zocdoc will show real-time appointment availability and eligible residents will then be able to select a date/time and book an appointment online. Date of birth will be required when booking an appointment to confirm vaccine eligibility.

*To register by phone, call (312) 746-4835. To help bridge the digital divide, a multi-lingual call center will be available to help seniors make an appointment.

*This call center will be available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Given the anticipated high demand for appointments, residents who can use the web site should book their appointments online. While the call center has 200 staffers, those who need to use the call center will very likely experience lengthy wait times.

The site will operate seven days a week for eight weeks under the federal government’s vaccination pilot program. The facility will be managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) with support from the Department of Defense, state of Illinois, Cook County and city of Chicago.

Lightfoot said there will be several vaccine-related events taking place over the week to educate and inform people as to where and when to get the COVID vaccine.

She added that the city is partnering with ride share service Uber to give people transportation help to and from their appointments.  The city said Uber is providing 20,000 $40 ride credits to eligible residents.

After a resident books an appointment through Zocdoc, they’ll get an appointment confirmation email which will ask if they need transportation. If they do, they’ll get ride credits from Uber which will work only for rides to and from the United Center.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff