It was a proud moment for Tinley Park yesterday. The Tinley Park Convention Center became the first large-scale COVID-19 vaccination site to open in Cook County and the state of Illinois!

A news conference was held on its first day of operations with speeches from Governor J.B. Pritzker and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

The Tinley Park Convention Center is one of more than two dozen sites being set up and operated by the Illinois National Guard. Why was the Tinley Park Convention Center chosen? Size: The Tinley Park site has a current capacity of 9,000 vaccinations per week, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and it can expand eventually to 18,000 per week when the supply of vaccine doses increases. As Toni Preckwinkle so perfectly put it “Today that sliver of light at the end of the tunnel is just a bit brighter.”

Appointments are required; it is not a walk-up site. The State and Cook County have a website available to accept appointments, or you can call (833) 308-1988. Vaccinations are available to those living or working in Cook County. Please note that since this is a State and County operation, the Village of Tinley Park will not be registering residents or taking appointments. My family and I signed up and are in group category 1C, so be sure to register as soon as you can.

To learn a little bit more about why Tinley Park was chosen and how the convention center was able to pull off such a quick setting up of the vaccination site, read this informative article by Jon DePaolis:

TINLEY PARK, Ill. — The Village of Tinley Park Board of Trustees celebrated the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Village-owned Tinley Park Convention Center Tuesday, Jan. 26, during a special meeting.

The vaccination site — a partnership between the State of Illinois, the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) and the National Guard — opened at the convention center, located at 18451 Convention Center Drive, earlier in the day.

The board members voted 6-0 to approve a memorandum of agreement with the other governmental entities to use the convention center.

“This memorandum of agreement with the Cook County Department of Public Health and the Village of Tinley Park is to utilize Village-owned facilities to perform emergency public health activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Trustee William Brennan noted before the vote.

Earlier in the evening, during the Committee of the Whole meeting that preceded the Village Board meeting, Assistant Village Manager Pat Carr explained how Tinley Park became involved with the mega vaccination center.

“This came up … almost two weeks ago,” Carr said. “It came up very quickly. Cook County Health and the hospital system was looking for a large space to open one of the first mega [vaccination centers] in the state, and our convention center has been vacant for the past nine months because of COVID. So, we put together a plan with Cook County Health, Cook County Emergency Management and [CCDPH] to utilize our facility.

“We were able to put it together, and within a matter of days this past weekend with around-the-clock construction, we were able to transform the convention center into the first mega pod vaccination center in the state.

“It’s been a historic event. We started vaccinations to the public today. We’ll continue until further notice.”

Carr said he believed about 500 vaccinations occurred on Jan. 26.

“The game plan is to get up to 4,000 a day,” he said.

Trustee Michael Glotz thanked Carr for the role he played in setting up the vaccination site at the convention center.

“This is absolutely amazing that Tinley Park was able to land this,” Glotz said. “I know you put a lot of time and effort into this, [as well as] anyone else that helped you though EMA and everyone that was involved other than yourself. So, thank you.”

Brennan also commended the board’s predecessors — like Mayor Ed Zabrocki — for getting the convention center in the first place.

“I talked to [Cook County Board of Commissioners President] Toni Preckwinkle … and they were really looking for a facility that had a big enough parking lot to accommodate all those people,” Brennan said.

Trustee Cynthia Berg said she thought it was great that the Village was able to partner with the county and CCDPH.

“I know the south suburbs have been disproportionately affected by COVID, so it’s nice of Tinley Park to be in a position to help out,” Berg said.

Appointments are required for the state- and county-run vaccination site. For more information on registering for the vaccine, visit https://vaccine.cookcountyil.gov/.

By Jon DePaolis Richard Free Press

For more information & appointments, visit vaccine.cookcountyil.gov or call (833) 308-1988.

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