Vitals Managing Editor Angie Sheets contributed to this story.
On Jan. 3, Edna Brown turned 107. On Feb. 4, she got a COVID-19 vaccination.
Both historic events in the life of Edna, who has a lot of history herself. She grew up picking cotton in the South and riding to church in a buggy, then raised a family that includes prominent Sacramento educators and sang in the church choir until she was 100. And, all the while, she survived the Spanish flu, polio, mumps and every other disease that killed and maimed so many others.
Her son, retired Elk Grove teacher Lonnie Brown, brought her Thursday to get her first COVID-19 vaccination because, he said, many friends, her church community and especially her large extended family want to visit one of the grand dames of Del Paso Heights.
“A lot of people are asking if they can come see her, and we tell them not at this time,” Lonnie said. “Not until she gets a COVID shot and you get one, then that would be a possibility. But until then, we just keep her kind of isolated. … If there’s any possibility of extending her mortality, I don’t want COVID to jeopardize that.”
Edna was one of about 800 Sacramento-area residents who were vaccinated Feb. 4 at the Sutter Health large-scale vaccination clinic in the Expo Parkway area. It is one of three such large centers in Sutter’s Valley Area designed to vaccinate as many Sutter patients and others in order to beat this novel coronavirus. The three clinics – in Sacramento, Roseville and Modesto – opened this week and have the capacity to vaccinate 3,000 patients, and soon will be able to add even more capacity, as long as there is enough supply of the vaccine.
On that February day, when appointments opened for those 65 and up, the excitement and gratitude were palpable from everyone, from the clinicians administering the shots, the staff helping patients through the process, but especially from the seniors and community healthcare workers who received their first doses of hope in the form of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
“You can feel the relief, the joy, the emotion from these patients,” said Theresa Frei, R.N., president and CEO of Sutter Valley Medical Foundation, whose physicians care for more than 1 million patients. “They’ve been isolated for over a year from their families and from their lives. You can hear them … talk to each other about how (once they’re fully vaccinated) they’re going to see their grandchildren, how they’re going to get their haircut, how they’re going to travel, how they’re going to do things that they used to take for granted.
“They’re so excited, and they’re very, very grateful. It’s just an incredible feeling,” said Frei in between giving vaccinations at the Sacramento clinic.
Another of those grateful patients is 82-year-old Maurica Crooks, who has been “trying hard not to get the virus,” she said. “I’m glad I’m getting the shot, because at least I have a chance of not getting COVID then. I’m really happy about that.”
Crooks is looking forward to getting her own groceries and shopping at department stores.
“Just get out of the house,” she said. “I feel like a mole or a muskrat or something.”
One couple, Jill and Douglas Floyd, were able to get their vaccinations at the same time at Sutter’s Sacramento clinic.
“COVID-19 has been life-altering, and this shot means that we’re one step closer to being safe,” Jill Floyd said.
Throughout the Thursday clinic, those getting their shots were very impressed by the organization of the clinic and how easy it was to schedule an appointment through Sutter’s My Health Online app and the dedicated scheduling phone number. (For more information, go here.)
One of those was great-grandmother Loretta Garcia Seals, 84, of Sacramento. “I still can’t believe that I talked to someone at the call center and 5 minutes later (I have an appointment and) I’m ready to come down” to Sutter’s clinic, Seals said.
In addition to seniors getting their vaccinations, there were also some community healthcare providers.
Bill Streck, a clinical pharmacist, said he was “impressed with the check-in process, the speed, the layout and the information provided, really everything from beginning to end was quite impressive.”
He’s helping to spread the word about the vaccine and how it will help our society as a whole.
“Anxiety will be lifted,” he said. “So many people I’ve talked to, it’s anxiety, and this (vaccine) will help alleviate that. This is history in the making.”
Lonnie Brown, 107-year-old Edna’s son, said he had to talk his mother into getting the vaccination, and that there are many of his African American peers who are apprehensive to get vaccinated due to rumors and controversy surrounding the vaccines, as well as healthcare injustices Black communities have historically experienced.
Both Lonnie and his brother – Larry Brown, former principal of Grant Union High School – got their first COVID-19 vaccinations on Sunday. He’s hoping that his brother’s standing in the Del Paso Heights community will help more folks get vaccinated.
“Since he got it, a lot of his previous students will probably get it now,” Lonnie said. “With all the rumors and controversy behind the shot, I just think that we have to throw that all aside and listen to what the science has to say. I think it’s going to go a long way to helping us get rid of the virus by more people getting vaccinated.”