South Carolina’s oldest resident received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at Greenville’s mass-vaccination site at 1 Kmart Plaza, flashing a thumbs-up after getting the jab, according to Prisma Health.
Maria Aulenbacher, 111, received the vaccine along with her daughter and son-in-law, both of whom are over 70.
“I’m just happy to have this opportunity to help keep healthy and keep everyone around me healthy,” said Aulenbacher in a statement from Prisma. “I can’t wait until I can hug my great-grandson again. I look forward to our family safely all being together.”
Aulenbacher already lived through the Spanish flu pandemic that ravaged the world.
Originally from Germany, Aulenbacher had been the oldest of six children. A decade ago she moved to the U.S. to live with her daughter, Birgit Dickerson.
“We feel we are doing our part,” Dickerson said. “This was a very easy process, and everybody was wonderful. As a family, we all have all thought of our health care and front-line professionals throughout the pandemic; our thoughts have been with them. We are so grateful to them for all they have done and the sacrifices they have made.”
Aulenbacher said reading nonfiction every day and living an active life has been the secret to her longevity. She likes a glass of red wine with lunch and a beer with dinner, according to Prisma.
Aulenbacher’s granddaughter, Christina Dickerson, said her grandmother understands having good and bad days at her age. “She had no hesitation with getting the vaccine at all.”
Dr. Saria Saccocio, Prisma’s chief medical officer for ambulatory services and co-chair of the system’s vaccine task force, said Aulenbacher was a “true vaccination hero.”
“This wise woman is setting the example for all of us. I hope everyone will follow her lead and roll up their sleeves to get their own shots when eligible,” Saccocio said, while cautioning that community immunity will take time. Saccocio warned that people still need to observe social distancing, wear their face masks and continue to wash their hands frequently.
“Anyone with older, more vulnerable family members knows how terrifying this past year has been. It’s just been awful. And, now, we finally have a glimpse of light and being able to take steps to return to some kind of normality,” said Christina Dickerson. “We know that we all need to continue to take smart precautions — as well as getting them their second doses — but, really, this just feels like the start of a turning point.”
Find out more about the COVID-19 vaccine at scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine.
For making a vaccine appointment with Prisma Health visit PrismaHealth.org/Vaccine.