Former Mayor Beverly O'Neill took her sweater off and presented her left shoulder to nurse Mary Elliot on Saturday morning at the Long Beach Health Department headquarters.
Ten seconds later, O'Neill had been vaccinated against COVID-19 with the first dose of Moderna vaccine in front of half a dozen cameras. She had made the point — the vaccine is easy to take and seniors 65 and older can get one now from the city of Long Beach.
"I just hope everyone takes advantage of this," O'Neill, who is 90 years old, said. "You need to get the vaccine, especially when you consider the alternative."
Long Beach began the 1B phase of vaccinations last week, with city employees needed for pandemic response and emergency responders. On Saturday, Jan. 16, the city began offering vaccinations to those older than 65 — originally it was to be 75 and older, but the age limit dropped thanks to additional vaccine supplies, officials said.
O'Neill was asked to be among the first to receive vaccinations to convince seniors to follow her lead. Appointments for the shot were gone shortly after the reservation system opened, and a line of cars ran from the Long Beach Health Department headquarters on Grand Avenue to Willow Street, then around the corner on Redondo Avenue.
There also was a walkup line next to Health Department headquarters. The first inoculations were given at 10 a.m., and both the walkup and drive-through lines began moving swiftly.
"It was so simple," Marilyn Riddle said as she sat on a folding chair, waiting out the 15-minute after-shot period. "I didn't even feel it.
"I decided to do this because it is the best way to protect myself," Riddle added, "and to protect those around you, too."
Vaccines given Saturday at the Health Department were from Moderna, and everyone received a vaccination record card reminding them to return in four weeks for a second dose. That shot also will require a reservation.
Food sector employees will be eligible for vaccines beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, and teachers and others in the education sector start being vaccinated on Monday, Jan. 25.
Demand for the vaccine is high — the reservation list for this weekend filled up shortly after it opened.
More than 500 Long Beach residents have died from COVID-19-related illnesses, and as of Friday, 286 Long Beach residents were in the hospital being treated for COVID.
To get an appointment link for a city vaccine clinic, email COVID19Vaccine@longbeach.gov or call 562-570-INFO (4636), option 6.