Bernice Bohannon is living through her second pandemic. She received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine March 16, just two days after her 111th birthday. The longtime Indianapolis resident is among the oldest people in the world to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
She was 8 years old when the 1918 influenza pandemic began. Between September 1918 and February 1919, 10,000 Hoosiers died of the flu, and over 350,000 people were infected statewide. Bohannon doesn’t remember much from that time, but said she wasn’t too concerned about getting vaccinated against COVID.
Her nephew, Ken White, said she waited a little while to see what happened to others receiving the vaccine, but had no side effects from her first dose. She is scheduled to get her second dose April 7 at IU Health University Hospital.
After more people are fully vaccinated, Bohannon is planning ahead for future family events. Usually, her family, friends and her Bethel AME Church community help her ring in her birthday every year. This year, however, COVID-19 made that impossible. While she made a batch of brownies for the group of relatives able to see her, including White and nephew Samuel Goodlow, her 111th birthday celebration was a lot different than previous birthdays.
Of course, with 111 years under her belt, Bohannon has a lot of memories — and advice — to share with family and friends.
“Just be good. Love everybody,” she tells folks looking to achieve longevity. “Don’t go out at night and do all that stuff. Stay home.”
Thanks to CICOA Aging and In-Home Solutions, Bohannon is able to live independently. Aides are there to help with household tasks, such as taking out the trash and meals. In her downtown home, White said it isn’t unusual to find her knitting, a hobby she’s had for decades.
A self-taught seamstress, Bohannon used her talents to make money while she watched over her two sons and daughter. All three of her children, as well as her husband of 54 years, Buford, are deceased.
Bohannon said she’s seen plenty of change throughout her life, one of the highlights being the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.
Ahead of her second vaccination, Bohannon is looking forward to things going back to normal so she can continue seeing more loved ones regularly.
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.