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CHICAGO — Chicago is opening more mass vaccination sites as the city prepares to expand COVID-19 vaccine availability to essential workers and people over 65.

Mass points of dispensing (PODs) are key to Chicago’s vaccine rollout. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday the city will have six sites located inside city colleges of Chicago up and running by next week.

“What makes these sites so important isn’t just their size but their location; and as I’ve said again and again, equity isn’t part of our COVID-19 strategy, equity is our COVID-19 strategy,” Lightfoot said.

Lightfoot estimates the City will be able to vaccinate 25,000 people a week once all six sites are online.

About 74,000 people have been vaccinated in Chicago so far. just a fraction of the 400,000 healthcare workers who live and work in the city.

As Phase 1A continues with healthcare workers taking priority, vaccinations for the 1B group — which includes essential workers and people over 65 — are getting close to opening up. 

But Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Alison Arwady said they don’t have a firm date for when that may be yet.

“We are expecting shortly to be able to truly move ahead with saying to those who are over 65 we’ll be opening up our mass points of dispensing,” Arwady said Thursday.

Arwady said there are 360,000 people over 65 and 360,000 essential workers who will be part of 1B in Chicago, but the city only received 32,000 doses from the federal government last week and 34,550 this week.

“When I think about 600,000 people to vaccinate in that next phase, getting 36, 32, 35 thousand doses a week isn’t going to be enough to move ahead quickly,” Arwardy said. “The main thing we need to grow our operation and to be able to move ahead in these phases is additional vaccine.”

Lightfoot and Arwady said the number of doses received by the city will need to rise in order for the city to increase the pace of vaccinations.

“At the rate we’ve been on, Chicago won’t be vaccinated for another year-and-a-half and that is completely and totally unacceptable,” Lightfoot said.

There is no cost for the vaccine. For now, healthcare workers must make an appointment to receive a vaccine at one of the sites using the official CDPH vaccine website

For people in the city wondering if they can sign up in advance and get in line to be ready when 1B does open, the city says: not yet. It will release all of that information when the time comes.

“I don’t want people to get the impression that they can sign up for an appointment just yet. When it’s available to sign up for an appointment, which I expect very soon, we will make that available,” Arwady said.

Starting Monday, a limited number of people over 65 will be able to get the vaccine through their health care providers, but only if those if those providers have extra doses not going to health care workers.  

There is no city registration available for that, as it happens through a patient’s health care provider.

Read more: Latest Chicago news headlines

Six Flags Great America released the following statement regarding the shooting:

Six Flags dedicates our greatest amount of time, talent and resources to safety and security.

Layers of preventative measures both inside and outside the park are in place for the protection of guests and team members. We continue to review and enhance our protocol on a daily basis to ensure we are providing the highest level of safety.

Cameras placed in the parking lot and inside the park, uniformed and plain clothes patrols throughout the property, and advanced screening technology allow us to react quickly and provide important information. The park security team is joined by the Gurnee Police Department, who operates a substation at the park.

This evening, we are incredibly grateful to our team members who reacted in a professional manner to take care of our guests, and for the Gurnee Police Department for their on-going presence and commitment to Six Flags Great America.