Bernice Bohannon, of Indianapolis, received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on March 16 — just two days after she turned 111

By Joelle Goldstein
March 17, 2021 04:55 PM
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Bernice Bohannon
Bernice Bohannon getting her COVID vaccine
| Credit: Indiana University Health

Bernice Bohannon has seen it all.

Born in 1910, the Indianapolis resident has lived through a number of historical moments, including the 1918 influenza pandemic, two world wars and the Great Depression.

She has also been alive to witness the civil rights movement, the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

And on Tuesday, the 111-year-old woman — who is one of the oldest living residents in Indiana — added another big moment to her life story: receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sitting inside the IU Health Neuroscience Center in Indianapolis on Tuesday — just two days after she turned 111 — Bohannon received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine from registered nurse Jalissa Hurd.

Bernice Bohannon
Bernice Bohannon receiving her COVID vaccine
| Credit: Indiana University Health

The exciting moment was documented on camera and later shared in a video on IU Health's Facebook page.

"We appreciate you for letting us serve you today," Hurd told Bohannon in the clip after administering the vaccine. "You crossed so many bridges for us, and it's an honor to serve you."

Later in the video, Hurd said of the moment: "You have that opportunity in nursing to be impacted and to impact, but today... just her presence, and being there to assist in her decision was impactful."

"It was something that was positive to me, I'm full of hope, full of excitement, I'm happy that she selected IU Health," she continued. "I'm happy I was selected to participate in this historical moment... she allowed us to participate to serve her and put a stamp in history."

Speaking to reporters after receiving her shot, Bohannon said she's been looking forward to this because she "wanted to see what it is."

"You could feel it a little bit but it wasn't bad," she noted. "You just gotta take care of yourself... Just get the shot!"

The centenarian said she hasn't been worried about COVID, but hoped her story would encourage others, especially African Americans, to get vaccinated.

According to IU Health, Bohannon still lives by herself but has an aide come by a few days a week to help with personal care and cooking.

Bernice Bohannon
Bernice Bohannon
| Credit: Indiana University Health

Her great-nephew Ken White also frequently checks in on her and drives her to appointments, including the one for her COVID-19 vaccine.

"I kept asking her if she wanted to get the vaccine, and she'd say, 'Let's wait and see,'" White told IU Health. "Finally she said she'd seen enough people get it and decided it was her turn."

"We wanted to know from her doctor, with her age, should she get the shot," he continued. "Her doctor said yes, she should get the shot and that's basically why we are here today."

Reflecting on Bohannon's age and long life, White said his great-aunt is "incredible."

"She's lived a good life," he said. "She hasn't been in poverty, she hasn't been in a life where she was without... she's outlived her children, her husband, most of our relatives and just about all of her friends."

"She is an exception to the rule," he added.

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