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USA Health began offering the COVID-19 vaccine to patients age 75 and older today, including Earline Dembo, a 96-year-old grandmother who hopes her immunity will mean life can go back to normal soon.

Published Jan 18th, 2021

By Nichelle Smith
nsmith@health.southalabama.edu

At age 96, Earline Dembo prides herself on living a healthy life.

“I’ve never once had a shot or had to take any medication,” she said. “The only time I’ve been in the hospital was when I had my three boys and even then I did not spend the night.”

All that changed today (Jan. 18) just after 11 a.m. Dembo arrived at the Mobile Civic Center riding in the backseat of a large Silverado truck driven by her son, Eduardo. He brought his mom to receive her first ever shot – the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dembo didn’t have any clue what to expect. “I was pretty nervous,” she said. “I’m sure my blood pressure was high because I’ve been thinking about it all night long.”

After completing some paperwork, Dembo rolled up her sleeve and braced herself for the stick.

“That wasn’t bad at all, I was worried for nothing,” she said once it was over.

January 18 is the first day the Pfizer BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is available for first responders and people 75 years of age or older in Alabama.

Last week, USA Health received an additional 3,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccines are being administered at a drive-through clinic at the Mobile Civic Center arena by appointment only. As more vaccine becomes available, USA Health will continue COVID-19 vaccine administration efforts to eligible populations as defined by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“I wanted to be sure I was one of the first to receive it once it was it was my time,” Dembo said.

A native of Mon Louis Island, located just south of Mobile County, Dembo remembers not having access to healthcare throughout her childhood. “We lived in the country,” she said. “The only time we saw the doctor is when they’d come by, which wasn’t often.”

Dembo – who was born in 1924 and turned 96 in November – is hoping that this vaccine eventually will allow everyone to get back to doing what they love in a safer, mask-free environment.

“I miss my family, going to church, and just being around loved ones,” she said. A stickler for mask-wearing, she now looks forward to socially distanced visits from her nine grandchildren or three sons.

To pass the time, she also has been known to cut her own half-acre yard with only a push mower. “My kids sometime beat me to it because they don’t want me out there, but I like to stay busy,” she said.

Dembo is set to get her second shot – a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – in 21 days.

For those 75 and older who are on the fence about receiving the vaccine, Dembo offers this encouragement: “If I can get my first shot at 96 years old, you can too,” she said. “Everyone should do their part.”

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