“It absolutely had a happy ending,” Goldman told The Washington Post in an interview late Tuesday. “It was worth every soggy step.”
Although Goldman got a shot thanks to her persistence and a support network of family and friends, her case illustrates the significant hurdles many seniors still face while searching for a dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
For Fran Goldman, the hunt for a vaccine began last month when Washington state announced that anyone 70 and older was eligible. Goldman, who was born in Boston but moved to Washington state about nine years ago to be closer to family, is a former physicist who later fully dedicated herself to her four children and volunteering work.
Soon, her days revolved around trying to secure an appointment. Every morning around 7:30, Goldman would call the state’s assistance line.
“I made it earlier and earlier each morning so that I would get through without waiting,” Goldman said. “However, it didn’t make much difference because they never had anything.”
Her afternoons were reserved for scrolling through the portals of 10 local vaccination sites. Sometimes, Goldman said, she would spend hours filling out eligibility questionnaires only to find there were no longer any available appointments. Some evenings, she would try again.
“She was getting increasingly frustrated as each day went by and she couldn’t get an appointment,” her daughter said. “One day she said to me, ‘My whole routine is taking a walk, trying to get a vaccine appointment and figuring out what I’m going to get for dinner.’ “
Until last Friday, when Goldman clicked on the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s website to find it had available slots. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Goldman told The Post.
Goldman snagged a Sunday morning appointment. But then Saturday night brought the state’s first big snowstorm of the year, which dumped nearly a foot on her neighborhood. Although many vaccination sites began postponing appointments, Goldman’s was still on.
Goldman lives on a steep hill, though, and on Sunday morning she quickly realized that driving would be impossible on the snowbound roads. Instead, her five-minute drive would turn into a serious hike through the elements. Goldman said she takes daily three-mile walks around the neighborhood.
“There are very few 90-year-olds who are going to walk three miles there and three miles back to get the vaccine,” Ruth Goldman said, noting that her mother has always been very athletic. “I probably would have rescheduled. My mom was not going to let that vaccine go.”
So armed with a pair of hiking poles, multiple layers and her snow boots, slowly but surely, Fran Goldman began trudging to the hospital as snow continued to fall on the streets. It took her about an hour to get there.
“It took me a bit longer than expected,” Goldman said. “I got there about five minutes late but that didn’t matter.” On Sunday at around 9:15 a.m., Goldman received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Although Goldman is elated to have received her shot, she recognizes she did not have it as hard as many. She has a car and a tablet, lives close to a hospital and is tech-savvy enough to navigate the at times confusing vaccine appointment portals. Still, it took her nearly a month, hours of frustration and multiple failed attempts to secure an appointment in the hopes of regaining some sense of normalcy.
Then, she retraced her three-mile route back home.
Goldman is scheduled to receive the second shot in early March.
“I hope I’ll be able to drive,” Goldman laughed, “but I could walk again.”