| Indianapolis Star
After getting the COVID-19 vaccine, seniors looking forward to getting out again
Marion County Public Health Dept. vaccine clinics open. People 80 years old and over can now register for an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Kelly Wilkinson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Landy was waiting early Monday morning when the Marion County Health Department opened the doors to its COVID-19 vaccination clinic in a shopping mall on the northwest side.
The 80-year old Landy spent nearly two hours on Friday securing his appointment. His efforts paid off as he became the first senior as well as the first person to receive the coronavirus shot at the site.
Since Friday, people older than 80 have joined health care personnel and first responders in the eligibility pool for the vaccine, so Landy could not claim the title of first Indianapolis senior to be vaccinated.
Landy, however, wasn’t concerned about snagging the title of first.
“I just want to be safe,” he said. “I want to get back to where I can be doing things again.”
Before the pandemic, Landy attended baseball games, was a theater usher and enjoyed the symphony. Life has changed. Over the summer, when it was warm enough to go outside, he took walks along the canal. Now, he said, he’s mostly home in his west side apartment with nothing to do but “twiddle my thumbs.”
86,000 have scheduled appointments
In just three days nearly 86,000 seniors leapt at the chance to schedule an appointment for the first of two required doses of vaccine, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
County public health officials around the state scrambled to set up clinics that could accommodate the influx of interest. All but one of the state’s 92 county health departments will offer the vaccine.
At first, the Marion County Health Department planned to open a clinic for first responders this week, said Melissa McMasters, coordinator of the infectious disease and immunization programs. Then state officials opened eligibility to Indiana’s oldest residents, who make up just under 4% of the population.
“I had no idea last week at this time that we would be seeing the public,” McMasters said. “I consider it a historic day because we are able to finally get vaccines into the arms of the public.”
By the end of the day Monday, McMasters said she expected the clinic would vaccinate about 300 people.
Aside from a few computer glitches at the start, Monday morning ran smoothly. Patients checked in, went to one of six stations for their shot, then sat in socially distanced chairs to schedule their final dose, and waited for at least 15 minutes after the shot to ensure they did not have an adverse reaction.
Classical music streamed gently out of a speaker positioned in the front of the clinic, located in the former home of the International Marketplace Welcome Center.
Not all of the clinic’s patients were elderly. Some were either first responders or health care professionals who had not yet received the vaccine.
As an Indiana University Health Methodist employee who staffs special events, such as Colts and Indy Fuel games, Deb Estes, 59, had held off on getting the vaccine.
“I preferred to leave that to the in-house folks,” she said.
Now that her colleagues have had a month to be immunized, Estes decided it was her turn and went to the clinic near her west side home.
Older patients brought their adult children
Many of the older patients came with an adult child by their side, often the person who navigated the state’s website to snag an appointment.
For some it was one of the first outings they’ve had in months, revealing just how isolating the past 10 months have been for the elderly.
Speedway resident Beth Nelson brought her mother, Mary Hooper. Since the pandemic, Hooper, 85, has only entertained visitors on the patio of her apartment in a senior living community on the west side. The regular churchgoer has switched to online services. Card games are also out.
“The only thing I do is go out and get my mail,” she said.
Technically the senior complex where Donna Funkhouser, 88, lives is on quarantine right now. But Funkhouser’s daughter Susan Hawkins received the director’s blessing to take her mother and her mother’s friend to the clinic to be vaccinated.
Back in her apartment, Funkhouser passes the time reading, talking to friends and family on the phone, listening to music, doing puzzles.
“It’s a long day,” she said.
On Friday, Hawkins spent nearly two hours waiting to schedule the two appointments. While it took time, she said she appreciated that the website let her know she’d have a half hour wait and then an hour one.
To his daughter’s dismay, David Hinders, 95, does go out three times a week to teach water aerobics. Other than that, Hinders stays home, allowing his daughter Jean Ann Tenney to do his grocery shopping.
Once he and his friends are all vaccinated, Hinders said, he looks forward to resuming their regular breakfasts and lunches together.
While Mary Jane and Edwin Cecil keep one another company, Mary Jane, 85, is mindful of the risks the coronavirus poses to her husband, who turns 99 in March. During the summer they would sail. Now they often drive to the lake for a picnic parked in their car.
Still, the coronavirus often lurks in the back of her mind, so she welcomed the chance to get the shot.
“It’s the unknown,” she said. “You’re not sure who’s carrying it or if you’re carrying it.”
Vicki Bentley, 65, wishes her mother would take greater precautions against the virus. But Ruby Bouye, 90, just can’t say no to friends and family that want to come visit, her daughter said.
Where Bentley hasn’t seen her five grandchildren much since the pandemic began, they’ve all been to visit their great-grandmother.
So Bentley, who said the website could have been better designed, tried a few times to make an appointment for Bouye. She had no intention of giving up, especially after nine people in her family fell ill after a Thanksgiving get-together and one died.
“I can’t make her stop letting people come in her house,” Bentley said. “She’s a hard headed woman…. I just have to do what I can to protect her.”
To make an appointment, call 211 or visit ourshot.in.gov.