111-yr-old rolls up sleeve for COVID-19 vaccine


Given her age, Bernice Bohannon could have been vaccinated months ago, but said she had been “waiting on my birthday.”

INDIANAPOLIS — Since the COVID-19 vaccines became available, thousands have come to the IU Health Neuroscience Center to roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. 

But none quite like Bernice Bohannon.

“There are few things you don’t forget over 19 years of practicing as an RN, and today is one I will share with my four-year-old daughter and friends and family,” said Jalissa Hurd. 

So far, Bernice is the oldest person vaccinated at IU Health. She turned 111 on Sunday. Given her age, she could have been vaccinated months ago, but said she had been “waiting on my birthday.”

Her great-nephew Kenneth White, who brought her to IU, said, “She’s a very wise woman. She just wanted to wait, was kind of apprehensive but now that she got the shot, I’m she’s happy she did.”

Bernice was born in 1910, the youngest of 10 children and the only still alive.

She was 8 years old during the 1918 flu pandemic. She said she doesn’t remember much, “nothing, just them talking about it.”

But she does remember other dark periods in American history, particularly those involving the treatment of Black Americans. And that made her decision to get vaccinated all the more important to Hurd.

After the staff presented Bernice with flowers to celebrate her “birthday vaccination”, Hurd, who administered the shot, got a bit choked up.

She told Bernice, “God bless you. This is amazing. We appreciate you letting us serve you today. You’ve crossed so many bridges.”

“As African Americans and Black women, we have learned to distrust due to some historical events that have occurred, and to see her show up builds that trust we all want because African Americans are dying at a faster rate due to COVID-19,” Hurd said. 

Asked for her advice to anyone hesitant to get vaccinated, Bernice smiled broadly and said, “come and get it. It’s not going to hurt. It’s going to help them.”

She left with her bouquet of flowers, promising to return for her second shot in three weeks.