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Free Again’: Former Scientists, 90 And 88 Years Old, Relieved To Finally Get Vaccine

Jeff He takes a photo of himself and his father Linxing He, 90, and mother, 8...

Credit: Courtesy of Jeff He

Above: Jeff He takes a photo of himself and his father Linxing He, 90, and mother, 88-year-old Huiqing Ying, while waiting in line at San Diego County's drive-up mass vaccination site at Petco Park, Jan. 19, 2021.

Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.

The drive to San Diego County’s vaccine supersite at Petco Park couldn’t come soon enough for 90-year-old Linxing He and his wife, 88-year-old Huiqing Ying. They received their first dose less than 24 hours after the county expanded eligibility to people at least 75 years old.

The new policy announced on Monday brings relief to isolated seniors who face the highest risk of severe illness or worse from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But even as vaccination opportunities slowly increase, demand is still far higher.

Speaking in Mandarin that was translated by his son, Jeff, He said the vaccine will give them their life back after they've skipped gatherings for the holidays and have gone without seeing their families, friends and even neighbors over the last several months.

Reported by Tarryn Mento

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"He said that this vaccine is the most powerful weapon to fight the pandemic and he said with this vaccine they will feel free again," Jeff said, interpreting for his father.

Ying said she misses just being able to leave her home.

"With this vaccination she feels that they can go out again, enjoy life again, which is what they love to do," Jeff said, translating for his mother.

Appointments through the county quickly filled up shortly after local officials announced older adults could receive the injection, but the move is still a step behind the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom last week declared people aged 65 years and older were eligible. San Diego leaders said the county's supply at the time couldn't go that far but permitted providers in the region to do so if they had the doses.

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UCSD Health already began inoculating some of its 65-and-older patients and on Monday, Scripps Health announced it would too. The vaccinations are to begin Wednesday, but Scripps' Dr. Ghazala Sharieff, chief medical officer of acute care, said they only had 6,800 doses available for the 80,000 eligible patients they notified.

"Within two hours we had already filled the 6,800 spots so we realize that’s a small dose in the bucket, but every drop counts," she said.

The doses are leftover from an earlier allocation to cover their own health care workers — some employees chose to skip or delay it.

Scripps expected to receive a shipment Tuesday that was to include some of the doses to cover those confirmed appointments, but Shariff said they won’t know until it arrives how many additional doses it contains that can be given to more patients.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jeff He

Linxing He, 90, receives the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at San Diego County's mass vaccination site at Petco Park, Jan. 19, 2021.

"Some people are not happy because the husband got it and the wife didn’t, but I ask you to have a little bit of patience … even if a single family member got one, that’s better than nobody getting one," she said.

Sharieff asked patients not to overwhelm their phone lines with questions about vaccine availability because patients will be notified as more vaccine rolls in, but she doesn't know when the next shipment would be or how much it would contain. She said if patients can get an appointment at a county site, they should take it.

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Photo of Tarryn Mento

Tarryn Mento
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksThe health beat is about more than just illness, medicine and hospitals. I examine what impacts the wellness of humans and their communities.

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