102-year-old Collier woman receives coronavirus vaccine at The Arlington Naples
Ruth Anderson sat at the table in the dining room of The Arlington Naples with a cup of coffee and a slice of toast. A folded copy of the Wall Street Journal lay next to her breakfast.
On a normal morning, she would have a bowl of oatmeal with her coffee and her paper.
This day was not normal.
Anderson, 102, received her first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine Tuesday morning.
“This morning, I just said toast,” she said. “I was a little nervous.”
Anderson is one of about 150 residents of The Arlington Naples who were expected to receive their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine Tuesday through a partnership between the retirement community and Walgreens.
More than 300 residents and employees are expected to receive the vaccine between Tuesday and Wednesday, said Jessica Short, executive director of The Arlington Naples.
Anderson said she has lived through three virus outbreaks in her lifetime: the 1918 influenza pandemic, the polio epidemic and now the coronavirus pandemic.
The 102-year-old Arlington resident’s first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Tuesday was her first pandemic vaccine, she said.
“I have just one daughter who lives in Seattle and I thought I’d never see her again,” she said. “Now, maybe, we’ll get to travel.”
Anderson is from Boston. She worked as a mathematician during World War II. She lived in California and Washington, D.C., for some time before retiring to Cape Cod with her husband. The couple eventually bought a condo in Collier County.
She was born in July 1918, the year the flu pandemic began.
It was “the most severe pandemic in recent history,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 675,000 deaths occurred in the U.S. and about 50 million deaths happened worldwide, the CDC says.
Polio outbreaks in the 1940s and 1950s caused thousands of cases of paralysis before a vaccine came into the picture, according to the CDC. No cases of polio have been seen in the U.S. since 1979, the CDC says.
The coronavirus pandemic has been another experience for Anderson.
“You know, when this first started, I didn’t think that it would be as widespread as it is,” she said.
But Anderson has spent her time during the coronavirus pandemic doing things she loves.
Anderson has a passion for sewing, she said, and began making masks at her residence in The Arlington’s independent living facility.
“I have all this extra fabric,” she said. “You can’t go into Jo-Ann’s and come out empty.”
Anderson uses FaceTime every day to virtually talk with her daughter, Karen, she said.
Karen Anderson, Ruth’s daughter, said Tuesday she is “thrilled” her mother received the vaccine.
“My mother is extremely optimistic and she’s willing to embrace scientific and technological discoveries,” Karen Anderson said. “She has no hesitation about getting this. She believes it’s going to be successful.”
Karen Anderson hasn’t seen her mother since January, she said. She considered renting an RV over the summer to drive from Seattle to Southwest Florida but ultimately chose not to travel for safety reasons.
“I’m looking forward to seeing her after I get the vaccine,” Karen Anderson said.
Ruth Anderson has lived at The Arlington for about five years, Karen Anderson said.
Short, the Arlington’s executive director, said Ruth Anderson is a leader in the community.
“A lot of it is her positive outlook on life,” Short said. “She’s always so thankful for everything. That’s her spirit.”
When Anderson finished her breakfast Tuesday morning, she pushed her pink walker down the hall to where the vaccines would be distributed.
She insists she only uses the walker for longer distances, she said.
At a table outside the room, Anderson answered health questions from a staff member.
“Do you feel sick today?”
Anderson sat down in a chair at a vaccine station and received her paperwork from a Walgreens healthcare worker.
“I’m ready,” she said.
She rolled up the sleeve of her pink blouse and in a matter of seconds, it was over.
Staff members sat her at a chair in an observation area to monitor her for 15 minutes. Someone gave her another cup of coffee.
“I didn’t even feel it,” she said.