Dora Garza, 82, walks out of the Madera County Health Department on a windy day in February. She’s just received her first dose of the vaccine and she says the shot was quick and painless.
“It didn’t hurt and I would like everybody to get it that you know, needs to have it,” she says.
Garza says she got the vaccine because she has a younger sister who’s been hospitalized with COVID-19 for the past two months.
“Her lungs are so, so bad. It was all caused by COVID-19. They just collapsed on her and without the oxygen, she can’t breathe. So it’s been really, really hard. Been real hard for us,” she says.
Garza is one of several hundred people getting a shot on this day. Behind her, cars come in and out of the parking lot looking for spaces. Flags on the flagpole whip against the wind. Several signs point to the line for vaccines.
Seniors over 75 are among the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine. And for some, it’s been a real challenge just figuring out how to get a vaccine.
Take Lester and Kathleen Moore. They’re in their 70’s and they had a tough time getting an appointment without computer access.
“Everybody don’t have a computer,” says Lester Moore. “And not computer literate,” his wife Kathleen chimes in with a laugh. Lester says he tried for three weeks to call and make an appointment.
“I just stayed on the telephone for about an hour. They finally answered,” he says.
“At different times, because he had called in many, many, many times but this time, he stayed on, he hung on with the busy thing, so finally got through,” Kathleen adds.
Dianna Forster, 70, of North Fork had the same problem. She also booked her appointment over the phone and says it was a challenge to get through.
“I had to keep calling and keep calling. Don’t give up. Just keep calling. Just put it on re-dial and just keep calling,” she says. “I just knew that I had to continue, which is so important for everybody. I mean, we’re talking children, adults, elderly, everyone.”
She’s hopeful the vaccine will give her back a sense of freedom. She helps care for a friend with health issues and they’ve been extra careful.
“Staying home. Not going shopping, not doing anything that we really want to go do. I get out once in a while, but it’s because I don’t have health issues,” she says.
Thomas Smith walks out of the health department with his 95-year-old mother Violet, who just got her shot. He says it took about three weeks to find an appointment online.
“A lot of times previously, I would pull it up and they were taking appointments, but then when I got through in there, then they were all full,” he says.
Part of the problem? He says he’s not good with computers.
“But I got lucky this week. In fact, it was about 11:30 at night and I thought, well check one more time and then they had an opening and so it went great,” he says.
Eilene Pettit, 91, says her daughter helped her book her appointment online. She also brought her here.
“My daughter drove down from the mountains to bring me in because I didn’t want to drive by myself,” she says.
Pettit says family was always a big part of her life. She misses going to church and other family traditions. She used to meet her siblings the first Tuesday of every month, a routine they’ve kept for at least 8 years.
“We’d meet in Fresno for lunch and it’s been very nice because sometimes my daughter, my son, nieces, nephews would join us too so it made it very special,” she says.
She says when they all get vaccinated, they’ll do it again. It’s what most of the people here today hope for, being able to hang out with family again in person. It’s what Lester and Kathleen Moore say they want. After all this is over, they hope to take a vacation.
“We got brand new, great, great grandkids we haven't seen,” Lester says.
“So hopefully we will,” Kathleen adds.
The couple say they plan to drive all the way to Tennessee to see them.