CHICAGO — The city has considered opening mass vaccination sites at popular arenas like the United Center and Wrigley Field, Chicago’s health commissioner said Tuesday.
But those plans are on hold for a variety of reasons, chief among them that Chicago doesn’t get enough vaccine doses from the federal government, Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said during a Tuesday morning live stream.
Los Angeles opened a vaccination site at Dodger Stadium, and State Farm Stadium outside Phoenix has turned into a site. Chicago has considered using its own sports stadiums and massive complexes in the same way, Arwady said.
“We have done all of the planning. We have done the walkthroughs,” Arwady said. “We are completely ready to stand up mass vaccination sites at any — yes, we’ve looked at the United Center; yes, we’ve looked at Wrigley Field; yes, we’ve looked at McCormick.
“We’ve looked at all of these settings — but it’s about vaccine.”
Chicago has the ability to open a mass vaccination site where 5,000 people could get a shot every day, Arwady said. But the city only gets about 6,000 doses per day, and it’s trying to distribute them in a equitable way so people in areas hit hard by COVID-19 can get vaccinated.
That means it wouldn’t make sense to administer thousands of shots at a mass vaccination site, since people with privileges — like having strong enough internet to land an appointment or having the means and time to drive a long distance to the site — would be able to access the site moreso than people with the most need, Arwady said.
“We’ve gotta make sure we’re also pushing vaccines in a dedicated way to higher-risk settings, to higher-risk communities,” Arwady said.
Another issue: Chicago in February is a far colder city than Los Angeles or Phoenix, where people can comfortably wait in long lines outside vaccine sites. Those two cities were in the high 50s and low 60s Tuesday, while Chicago was only expected to get as warm as 15 degrees.
Arwady has previously said officials have gone with a by-appointment system in part because they want to avoid having people wait in the cold and snow.
And vaccinators need to watch the people getting shots for at least 15 minutes after they’re vaccinated, meaning any indoor mass vaccination site would need to be massive to accommodate all the people getting shots and those being monitored, Arwady said.
But it is possible Chicago will open mass vaccination sites as the weather warms up and there are more doses provided to the city, Arwady said.
The city has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for support in opening mass vaccination sites in the future.
“We’ve got plans for as we get into spring and summer being able to move more of this more outside, which will help a whole lot,” Arwady said. “This will be something for sure that is in our future for Chicago in one way or another, but it will be more when there is more vaccine available.”
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