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January 8th, 2021

Gary couple grateful to get first COVID-19 vaccine shot

January 8, 2021 • Courtesy of Post-Tribune

Written by Meredith Colias-Pete

Bill Braman and his wife, Joann, were grateful to be among the first 80-somethings to get their initial COVID-19 shot Friday at Methodist Hospital Northlake in Gary.

“We feel so grateful and fortunate where we can get a vaccine,” said Joann Braman, 85, of Gary’s Miller Beach section. “We encourage those that really want, to please do it. If I’m going to integrate with my family and my friends and start living a life of semi-normalcy that we had before, it will allow me to do that with greater ease.”

Her husband, Bill, 87, is a former chairman of Methodist’s board. He served on the board for more than two decades, while spending a career in insurance. He was born at the Gary hospital, he said, noting he was proud they were giving out vaccines.

Since the pandemic started and shutdowns happened in March, the couple has been trying to play by the rules — “sequestered” at home. Occasionally, they go to a “sort of empty” restaurant, he said. Holidays are over Zoom. As a precaution, they stopped attending temple in Gary and Munster.

“Thank goodness for heat, thank goodness for TV, thank goodness for good books, thank goodness for the telephone,” Joann Braman said.

In a role reversal now, their two adult daughters have “taken charge,” checking on them and bringing groceries.

“We’re more the children,” Joann Braman said.

After their vaccine, each got a confirmation card. The Bramans were kept for 15 minutes while hospital staff monitored them. A handful of others waited nearby wearing masks. The hospital was also giving out second doses to health care workers Friday.

So far, 128,000 Indiana residents have gotten their first dose. Between 400,000 to 500,000 health care workers are eligible, Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver said. Others since include nursing home residents and staff, police, firefighters, first responders and mental health counselors.

In Lake and Porter counties, about 1.5% of each have gotten their initial dose since Dec. 15. Now that Indiana is expanding to 80 and older, over 250,000 residents are now eligible, according to the state. Of those, 33,500 registered within the first 2.5 hours Friday, it said.

“Just being here at this stage of the game, the length of our lives, we’re just grateful,” Bill Braman said. “People have different opinions and everyone is entitled to their own. But, I think it’s a bit ridiculous for people to not take advantage of the vaccine treatment. We’ve lost so many and there’s gonna be many more that will be lost, many unnecessarily.”

“At the most extreme, I would say, consider doing it, or consider the possibility of you not being able to do it (being hospitalized),” he said. “I think the decision should be pretty obvious.”

They’ve lost friends elsewhere to the virus, she said, near tears. This week, one of their doctors said his own brother had died of the virus.

“You know people that have had losses,” Joann Braman said.

Weeks later, once they get their second dose, they are taking things slowly.

“We’re taking one step at a time,” she said. “We are anxious like everyone to get back into a semi-normal mode of living.”

All COVID-19 vaccine sign-ups are done through the Indiana State Department of Health.

Vaccines would be available through 55 hospitals and 91 county health departments. Those include Methodist in Gary and Merrillville, Community Hospital in Munster, Franciscan in Hammond, Crown Point and Michigan City.

For its clinic, Franciscan Health Crown Point is adding Saturday hours, 8 a.m. to noon, just for those 80 and older, spokesman Robert Blaszkiewicz said.

The Gary Health Department said it would get about 200 doses per week, slated for EMTs and those 80-plus.

The Lake County Health Department is planning a vaccination site at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point. They are expecting to get about 800 doses per week. Once supply increases, it will set up a second site at Wicker Park in Highland.

The Porter County Health Department would have its own site. A representative was not immediately available. An automated message Friday said it did not yet have the vaccine. It is expecting 600 doses per week.

How to schedule

Residents 80 and older can call 2-1-1 or go online to to schedule. They will be directed to the nearest vaccine site.

Photo caption:

Bill Braman of Miller Beach receives the COVID-19 vaccine at Methodist Hospital in Gary on Friday, January 8, 2021. Braman, 87, was among the first in the area to get the vaccine since it was made available to those 80 and older. (Michael Gard / Post-Tribune)

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