CHICAGO — Nearly 30,000 seniors now have vaccine appointments as the United Center opened registration Thursday, but it wasn’t without some headaches.
Starting Thursday afternoon, people were able to start booking their appointments to receive the vaccine at an old Kmart on Oakton Street in Des Plaines. The Des Plaines locations will be the state’s first large-scale site to administer the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine that requires only one dose.
About 20,000 vaccine appointments are expected to be available in Cook County for seniors and essential workers starting at 1 p.m. Thursday.
The Des Plaines location will also be the first in Cook County to distribute the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Vaccinations would possibly begin as early tomorrow. That date could change due to the fact that there was a delay in shipment for the Johnson & Johnson vaccination — but once it arrives it will be available for essential workers and people over 65 years old.
Once up and running, officials are expecting up to 3,500 people would be able to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Des Plaines.
Vaccinations at Des Plaines and other Cook County Health sites are by appointment only. Appointments can be made through vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or by calling the hotline at (833) 308-1988 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday – Friday.
Getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccination means less hassle with booking multiple appointments. Because it is a single dose, patients do not have to worry about scheduling a second appointment.
In Chicago, the United Center opened up its vaccination appointment registration at 8:30 a.m. Thursday with more than 110,000 appointments available. However, after the appointments went live, many people complained about phone issues and long wait times to get an appointment online.
Ramon Letkey, an 87-year-old Korean War veteran, was having no luck getting the COVID-19 vaccine. When appointments opened Thursday morning for seniors, who have top priority for signups, his daughter tells WGN she tried several times to reach the call center.
“After two hours and five minutes, it went into another prompt and the voicemail box message was full. You can’t leave a message,” said JoAnne Baluk. “My heart just dropped and I was so aggravated and disgusted.”
Eventually, Baluk was able to get her father an appointment for Wednesday through the Zocdoc website.
After senior appointments are filled, people younger than 65 with underlying health conditions will be able to register Sunday.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot is urging people to remain patient.
“It’s the first opportunity,” Lightfoot said. “I think we have a lot of enthusiastic people, but we’ll get to folks. We just need them to be a little bit patient.”
To sign up for an appointment at the United Center visit zodoc.com/vaccine or call 312-746-4835. The hotline is open Monday through Saturday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Sunday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. On Thursday, March 4 the hotline will open at 8:30 a.m.
The Illinois Department of Public Health urges residents who have received their first vaccination to sign up for the ‘”V-safe After Vaccination Health Checker” to communicate directly with the CDC about any potential side effects and receive texts reminding them about their second dose.