‘Best Christmas Present Ever': East Bay Seniors Receive COVID-19 Vaccine

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Residents at a retirement community in Walnut Creek received a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, becoming some of the first seniors in Northern California to get vaccinated.

The seniors at the Viamonte living community were not required to get the shot, but they were heavily encouraged to do so. Viamonte Executive Director Melody Mitchell said she had no problem convincing them. Most signed up.

"We got the best Christmas present ever," resident Gloria Cabral said. "We got to get our COVID vaccine."

Cabral was one of the first residents to receive a vaccine. In total, 160 vaccines were split between staff and residents. Mitchell said there were some bumps in the road in the beginning.

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"It was mixed information," she said. "First we were hearing that it would be before Christmas. Then we were working with Walgreens and it was just – we weren’t quite clear when it was going to happen."

Then came the call on Monday from John Muir Health, which Contra Costa County had just tapped to help vaccinate seniors and staff in retirement communities. Mitchell said when she told the seniors they could get the shot as early as Wednesday, they were ecstatic.

"They cheered," she said. "They have been waiting for it for quite a while."

Mitchell said 97% of the seniors agreed to roll up their sleeves.

"A few months ago, I was thinking I don’t want to be the guinea pig," resident Robert Brewer said.

Health experts hope vaccine skeptics follow Brewers’ example and change their mind.

"This epidemic or pandemic has made us all feel like, 'Oh, find a way out!'" he said.

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