Chicago, IL

Illinois has a new strategy for getting shots in arms as the state shuts down mass vaccination sites

Jennifer Geer

Health officials are planning to target local communities and homebound residents.

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United Center in Chicago(Arvell Dorsey Jr./CC BY 2.0/Wikimedia Commons)

The United Center has ended walk-up Covid-19 vaccinations, though they will continue to offer drive-thru Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines until June 24th. Almost 287,000 vaccine doses have been administered at the site since they opened in March.

And in the suburbs, the Tinley Park, South Holland, and River Grove vaccination sites are consolidating into the locations in Des Plaines, Forest Park, and Matteson.

The Illinois positivity rate keeps dropping

The positivity rate for Illinois has fallen to a record low of 1.8%, and Covid-19 hospitalizations are down to 1,164 beds Friday night. The highest peak was over 6,000 during the worst surge in the pandemic.

With over 41% of the population fully vaccinated and 61% of adults with at least one dose, demand for the vaccine has been falling. With that falling demand, health officials are changing their focus from massive vaccination sites to smaller community events.

Mass vaccination sites are consolidating or closing

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady announced at a news conference that although the mass sites in Chicago and the suburbs are winding down, residents will still have easy access to getting vaccinated. “This is really our natural progression when we’re thinking about COVID vaccination. You think about starting with mass vaccination or mass treatment and then eventually moving to smaller efforts. That’s how large vaccination efforts work.”

Smaller community events are taking over

To reach residents, Illinois health officials are planning pop-up events in various locations, like farmer's markets, churches, and CTA buses.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told NBC 5 Chicago, “It is critical that we continue to meet people where they are, either geographically or psychologically, to get them vaccinated. This means going into neighborhoods and working with community-based organizations to ensure that everyone has access to the vaccine and that we can address the issues that cause people to be hesitant.”

Vaccines for homebound residents

To reach older residents and those with disabilities, the city of Chicago is offering homebound residents in-home vaccination appointments.

If you are a Chicago resident over the age of 65 or over the age of 12 and older with a disability keeping you homebound, you can call (312) 746-4835 to schedule an appointment.

Incentives are being offered

To help incentivize residents to get vaccinated, the Illinois House of Representatives is working on passing a bill that would make it legal for bars to offer a free alcoholic drink with proof of vaccination. If the bill passed, from June 10th to July 11th, bars and restaurants would be able to serve fully vaccinated customers (with proof) a drink of beer, wine, or liquor.

Chicago is planning a "Vax and Relax" campaign to offer free haircuts and gift cards at salons and barbershops. There has also been talk of a Chicago Vax Pass to provide fully vaccinated residents with special incentives, perks, and savings.

The Vax Pass would let residents gain access to concerts and other events. Although statewide, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has said he is not planning on a vaccination pass for Illinois residents.

Shifting the focus to communities

At the beginning of the month, the Illinois Department of Health issued a statement to NBC 5 Chicago explaining their plan to reach residents locally.

"As we see the rate of COVID-19 vaccination slow, not only in Illinois, but across the country, IDPH is pivoting to smaller vaccination clinics where we, and our partners, can take the vaccine to people instead of people having to come to the vaccine.

"We have been working with churches and places of worship across the state to hold vaccination clinics, we’ve deployed our rural vaccination teams to communities across Illinois, and we are working with community partners to set up vaccination clinics."

How to get a vaccine

Unlike at the beginning of the vaccine rollout, finding a Covid-19 vaccine near you has become increasingly easy to do. Vaccines.gov is a good place to start. The website lets you search by vaccine type and your location.

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area.

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