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'Our lives are going to be free': Seniors celebrate vaccination after long wait

Mary-Jane Kepple, 87, and her friend, 93-year-old Fred Sampson, got their first doses of the COVID vaccine Monday after a month of waiting.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — As they waited in line for their COVID-19 vaccine shots Monday, 87-year-old Mary-Jane Kepple and her friend, 93-year-old Fred Sampson, could hardly contain their excitement. 

"We're so happy," Kepple said. "We were afraid to do anything, afraid to go out, afraid to go to the pool, and now our life is going to be free."

"We're thankful for all the people who make this possible so that we can move on with our lives," Sampson added.

Lives that for the past month and a half have been consumed with getting a vaccine appointment. 

"It was frustrating, as it is with everybody," Kepple said. "You go online, and you go on the telephone number and it's always busy and by the time you get through, they say, 'Oh, appointments are all gone.'" 

I met Kepple over the phone in early January talking about the digital divide and the difficulty scheduling an appointment for those without Internet access.

Since then, she was able to get a working computer to help her schedule appointments. I'd text her whenever there was a new vaccine shipment in her area, St. Johns County, then walk her through the registration process. 

Usually, we would end up staring at screens on registration sites that never loaded.

"Every time Kailey would give me a different website or a different phone number, I would go on it two hours, four hours and finally, I thought they’d get to us when they get to us and they finally did," Kepple said.

Friday, the phone call came for the appointments at the Calhoun Center in St. Johns County. With a quick temperature check and check in with the staff at the site, the moment they'd long awaited finally came.

"It went very well," Kepple said walking out after her shot. "It didn't even hurt. We're so happy," 

"I just witnessed a remarkable demonstration of efficiency," Sampson added. "They treated you royally. They moved you along. They helped you. It was a good experience and I want to say thank you."

And they said just wait until they get their second doses.

"We're going out to dinner," Kepple said, laughing.