By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — The U.S. Army deploys the “Screaming Eagles” across the country to get some of the toughest jobs done, and that will soon include helping administer thousands of vaccines in Illinois.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, about 200 members of the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army are being deployed to help staff the mass vaccination site at the United Center. The soldiers are assigned to the 426th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

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Another 139 “Screaming Eagles” soldiers already are supporting a federal vaccination effort in Orlando, Florida.

“The 101st has a long history of answering our nation’s call, which at times has been to support civil authority here within the U.S.,” said Lt. Col. Derek Di Bello, battalion commander. “It is a mission we will take on with the same focus and energy that we would any task given to us.”

Crews are putting the finishing touches on huge tents set up in the United Center parking lot, where the mass vaccination site will open next week.

Online and phone registration started Thursday for the 110,000 available slots. People over 65 get first priority.

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By Thursday afternoon, approximately 28,000 people already had signed up for appointments.

If all 110,000 slots are not filled by Sunday, appointments will open up to anyone currently eligible for a vaccination in Illinois – including healthcare workers, frontline essential workers, seniors who are 65 and older, and anyone age 16 or older who has a serious underlying health condition.

There will be a limited number of vaccines that will be distributed on Tuesday, March 9, but the full day of shots will begin on Wednesday, March 10. The center will operate seven days a week for the next eight weeks.

The United Center site will be administering the Pfizer vaccine, which is a two-dose treatment.

There are two ways to make appointments:

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  • 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.

When it comes to the vaccine, we know you have plenty of questions. So Friday night we’re dedicating our entire Hour 18 show at 6 p.m. to answering your questions. Tune in to ‘A Shot of Hope’ at 6 p.m. Friday on CBS 2 and our digital streaming network CBSN Chicago. After the show, head to CBSN Chicago, where we’ll answer even more of your vaccine questions starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff