(CNN) — On her 100th birthday, Mildred Grassman got flowers, candy, money — and her second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine.
“It means everything to me,” Grassman said just after getting the last shot at Ascension St. Vincent Evansville in Indiana. “At my age, I didn’t want to get the disease.”
It also means that eventually, Grassman will be able to get back to what she loves — playing cards and bingo and being with her friends — once most people are vaccinated.
“She’s very social,” her daughter, Mary Carl, said of Grassman. “She’s never met a stranger,” she said, so the pandemic has been rough for Grassman, who has her own condo-like home at an independent living facility for seniors in Evansville.
Grassman is among the more than 5.6 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. More than 25 million have received at least one vaccine shot, with most states aiming to immunize the elderly and others who are most vulnerable.
When Grassman arrived at the clinic Monday morning, sporting a T-shirt with a Rosie the Riveter-like image and a facemask that read “Fabulous since 1921,” she was greeted with the “Happy Birthday” song over the sound system, and everyone wearing party hats.
Grassman said she was “flabbergasted.”
“When I came in, seeing all these people, I was overwhelmed I didn’t know what was going on. I just looked around, looked around,” she said.
Even without the party, Grassman said she was looking forward to getting that last shot.
“I thought it was a good birthday present,” she said.
Claire Gammon, a registered nurse at Ascension St. Vincent Evansville who gave Grassman her shots, said after scheduling the second on the day she got her first one, staffers realized it was going to be on Grassman’s 100th birthday, “and the room erupted in cheers, and it was just a really exciting day.”
So Gammon and others at the clinic started planning to make Grassman’s birthday special, with cookies and balloons and birthday hats “to just make a big deal out of her second vaccine” on Grassman’s birthday, she said.
“Providing the vaccine for our elderly community and for health care workers has been absolutely the most rewarding thing I have ever gotten to do as a nurse,” said Gammon, who’s worked about 100 hours vaccinating people in the community.
“I’ve vaccinated people that lost their spouses, I’ve vaccinated people that over their lifetimes have seen lots of things,” Gammon said. “This pandemic is the worst thing that they’ve ever seen.”
Things won’t go back to normal soon, Grassman and her daughter said, because they are waiting until enough people are immunized before they start socializing as they did before.
“I won’t be able to do much until we can all go out, get out of the house for a change,” Grassman said.
“I’m looking forward to later on when I can get out. I can go play cards because I’m used to playing cards two, three times a week,” she said.
Grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live out of state want to come visit, she said, but “they can’t until they get their shots, and that’s what they’re waiting for,” she said.
“I think that everyone should” get vaccinated, Grassman said. “Don’t think twice or three times. Just think about it and do it.”
Grassman doesn’t mince words when it comes to people who are afraid to get the shot: “I think it’s stupid.”
As for Grassman, “I’m glad she’s safer,” Carl said, “and she’s glad she’s safer.”