Eligibility for COVID vaccines expands at United Center amid snags in appointment process

Coronavirus
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CHICAGO – Illinoisans eligible under the state’s Phase 1B+ are now able to schedule appointments beginning Sunday.

However, after receiving guidance from FEMA, Governor Pritzker announced late Sunday afternoon that the state is changing the criteria for who is eligible. Now, only city of Chicago residents can make appointments. The late change, officials say, ensures appointments remain open for communities most impacted by the virus.

In the coming days, additional appointments will open for suburban Cook County residents.

The news comes following reports of another technical glitch, resulting in rescheduled and cancelled appointments.

Earlier in the week, WGN reported computer problems for vaccination appointments at the United Center when the site opened Thursday to all Illinois seniors.

Lisa Martin and Victoria Cardenas are two of several volunteers with the Facebook group “Chicago Vaccine Hunters.” The group has successfully booked more than 1,000 appointments for seniors in Illinois. This weekend, they started hearing about a problem with the United Center site – a technical glitch on the Zocdoc website for scheduling appointments.

“For people who had confirmed appointments, we started seeing yesterday morning they were getting appointment emails rescheduling their doses or canceling,” Cardenas said.

“We’re cheering on everyone getting their appointment,” Martin added. “To have it get canceled, you’re like, I can’t believe that just happened.”

Recently, a 102-year-old grandmother’s vaccine appointment was rescheduled and then canceled, her granddaughter shared online.

“My biggest fear is someone showing up at the original time of their appointment not realizing something had changed and being turned away,” Cardenas said.

The Zocdoc site and call center went live Thursday, with 100,000 appointments becoming available for seniors 65 and older for the United Center Federal Vaccine site.

“This is an all-call to seniors, anyone else in their network and support system to get them signed up for these appointments before they’re taken,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday.

Sunday’s expansion to the 1B Plus Group will include anyone 18 and older with qualified underlying health conditions.

The city’s latest numbers show that only one in three seniors has received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. City officials say there are still a quarter million seniors in Chicago who have yet to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination shot.

“It’s very exciting the city is opening the vaccine to a whole new subset,” Cardenas said. “But I really hope they’re looking out for the community who is in the mix of this technology mess.”

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