RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Larry Jackson celebrated turning 69 on Saturday with a present he hopes will bring him more birthdays.
“They got me my [COVID-19] vaccine today,” Jackson said of the government’s gift to him. “Hopefully with this vaccine, it’s gonna give us older people a little longer in life, you never know.”
Jackson knows how precious life is.
“I’ve had cancer three times and I’ve got through all the cancer three times,” he said.
Jackson is one of 1,200 people who were moved off a waitlist and given an appointment to get their first dose at the Wake County Health Department and WakeMed’s mass COVID-19 vaccination site at the PNC Arena on Saturday.
“They’re pulling up with their sleeves already rolled up,” said Dr. Diana Graham, of the Wake County Health Department. “I think there’s a really sense of happiness and relief.”
An army of 145 nurses, doctors, firefighters, and others worked from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. to get everyone vaccinated. A spokesperson for the Wake County Health Department said on average, they were able to vaccinate 84 people every 30 minutes.
“They did a great job,” said Jackson. “I’m amazed at how many people were here and they got it so perfect.”
Jackson told CBS17 he signed up to get the shot so he can have a fighting chance against COVID-19.
“I’m hoping it saves my life,” he said. “But if it don’t save my life down the road, I’ve lived 69 good years, I can’t complain. I’ve been with my wife 46 years, so it’s been an amazing thing.”
For Stephanie Low, the vaccine brings a sense of excitement for the future, especially after living through the past year of quarantine and isolation.
“You know, it’s been a long year,” she said. “And it’s great, I feel a lot of relief.”
Vaccines were only given to health care workers and people who are 65 and older.
Melissa Davidian works in health care and has been eligible to get the vaccine since the rollout first began. She decided to get her first dose on Saturday.
“I have an infant, so we were waiting for the right time, to feel like it’s the better option for us as a family,” she said.
Once she gets her second dose and the vaccine kicks in, Davidian said she’s most looking forward to spending time with family.
“I think just being able to be with our parents is going to be a big thing,” she said.” Our daughter is 9-months-old and she still hasn’t met a lot of her family — especially two sets of grandparents and great-grandparents. So we’re waiting on that, we’re excited.”
The Wake County Health Department and WakeMed are planning three more mass vaccination events at PNC Arena next week. They will administer 4,300 doses by appoint-only.
Jackson would like his wife to get the vaccine, but said she’ll have to wait until the state moves into the next phase of the vaccine distribution plan.
“My wife, she won’t be 65 until June,” he said. “So we’ll see what happens.”