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After struggling for weeks to get an appointment, 90-year-old walks 6 miles in snow to get vaccinated

"There's no excuse for it being done the way it was," she said of the vaccine rollout. "It was unorganized. Completely unorganized."

After struggling for weeks to get an appointment, 90-year-old walks 6 miles in snow to get vaccinated
Cover Image Source: Colleen DAmico, a clinical pharmacist with Seattle Indian Health Board, administers a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the SIHB on December 21, 2020, in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images).

Frances H. Goldman was ready to go to any extent to get her coronavirus vaccination. The 90-year-old, who became eligible for a vaccine last month, tried everything she could think of to secure an appointment. She made repeated phone calls and visits to the websites of local pharmacies, hospitals, and government health departments to no avail and even enlisted a daughter in New York and a friend in Arizona to help her find an appointment. Her efforts finally bore fruit last week, when she decided to check out the Seattle Children’s Hospital website for available slots.


"Lo and behold, a whole list of times popped up," Goldman told The New York Times. "I couldn't believe my eyes. I went and got my glasses to make sure I was seeing it right." However, she was soon presented with another challenge. A winter storm on Friday night and Saturday resulted in one of Seattle's snowiest weekends on record, forcing Goldman to choose between forfeiting her appointment or going to the hospital on foot as driving on hilly, unplowed roads posed a risk. Not wanting to lose out on the hard-to-come-by appointment, Goldman decided to brave the elements alone.


She took a test walk part of the way on Saturday to get a sense of how long the trip might take from her home in the Seattle neighborhood of View Ridge. And on Sunday, she took out her hiking poles, dusted off her snow boots, and started out once again. Goldman made her way to the Burke-Gilman Trail on the edge of the city, wended her way alongside a set of old railroad tracks, and traversed the residential streets of Laurelhurst to reach the Seattle Children's Hospital to get her vaccine. It was a quiet walk, she said, with just a handful of people out and about.


The journey, which was about three miles long and took an hour to complete, would have been more difficult had she not gotten a bad hip replaced last year, Goldman said. The appointment went smoothly at the hospital and as soon as she got the shot, she bundled up again and walked back home. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine carried a special significance for Goldman as it reminded her of the joy of national celebrations in 1955 when the polio vaccine was developed. She was a young mother at the time, and tens of thousands of children were getting polio, leaving some of them paralyzed or dead. Goldman still remembers taking her children to get the vaccine at a school in Cincinnati, where she lived.


As per her recollection, that vaccine rollout "was done in a very organized manner, and it made a huge difference in the way people could live in the summer — not only that people didn't get sick, but they also didn't have to live with the threat of getting sick." However, this time, Goldman has been disappointed by the vaccine distribution. "There's no excuse for it being done the way it was," she said. "It was unorganized. Completely unorganized."


Seattle represents just one of many places across the United States where residents are struggling to get access to the long-awaited vaccine. "There's just not enough vaccine across the state and the nation," said Sharon Bogan, a spokeswoman for the public health department of Seattle and King County. "Even under the best of circumstances, we knew this would take time. We know that eligible residents like Ms. Goldman are having trouble accessing appointments given limited supply of the vaccine." Fortunately, things are slowly starting to look up. Every American who wants a Covid-19 vaccination should be able to get one by the end of July, according to President Joe Biden, even though they might continue to face difficulties posed by the logistics of distribution.


However, Bogan assures that in King County, health officials grappling with limited supplies have been working to deliver the vaccine equitably. "We are focusing our efforts on those eligible high-risk persons who are not connected to a doctor or the health system and setting up sites to reach older adults in communities that have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19," she said. Meanwhile, Goldman — whose long walk for the vaccine made local and national news — is due to receive her second dose of the vaccine next month and she plans to drive this time. She hopes her headline-making walk will inspire people to get their shots. "I think it's important for the whole country," she said.

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