Victor Osborne, 102, of Nanaimo, who was born during the Spanish flu pandemic and took part in an influenza A vaccine trial while in the Royal Navy in 1934, will get his first COVID-19 vaccine dose on Monday, March 15. (News Bulletin file photo)

Victor Osborne, 102, of Nanaimo, who was born during the Spanish flu pandemic and took part in an influenza A vaccine trial while in the Royal Navy in 1934, will get his first COVID-19 vaccine dose on Monday, March 15. (News Bulletin file photo)

102-year-old B.C. veteran born during our last pandemic books his COVID-19 shot

Victor Osborne is no stranger to new vaccines

A Nanaimo senior who was born during the Spanish flu pandemic is about to get his first dose of vaccine during another pandemic more than 100 years later.

Victor Osborne, 102, was on the phone early Monday morning to ensure he was in line for some of the first COVID-19 immunizations available to seniors 90-plus. His appointment is scheduled for Monday, March 15, in the afternoon.

Osborne said he started calling the Island Health vaccination appointment number about two minutes before the lines opened at 7 a.m.

“I was two and a half hours on the phone…” Osborne said. “I was sure they were going to take me in that day. I finally got through. I was dialling that number. It was lousy. I finally got someone to answer.”

Osborne isn’t a stranger to new vaccines. He was 16 and serving aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Hood in the mid-1930s when he saw a post asking for volunteers for trials to test the effects of poison gas, which involved exposure to skin of the trial participant’s arms, and for the trial of the influenza A vaccine. Influenza A, according to information from the Mayo Clinic, is a sub type of H1N1, the virus responsible for the Spanish flu pandemic.

“I was on board the battle cruiser Hood as a boy seaman,” Osborne said. “I saw the notice up on the notice board – this is about 1934 or ’35 – and then following the notice there was another note [that read] if you went for this poison gas test on one arm and another poison gas test on the other arm, each test would get five days’ leave, so naturally, I wanted to go home on leave.”

So Osborne volunteered for the trials.

“Well, lo and behold, I got the bloody flu and I wound up in the naval hospital for 10 days and it was really violent,” he said. “I was looking at the pictures on the wall in the hospital and it just looked like mud.”

To add insult to injury, when Osborne returned to his ship and reported to his duty officer, he was denied his leave, in spite of being in the hospital for 10 days.

“He said you were absent from place of duty. You’re not going to get any leave,” Osborne said.

Osborne transferred off HMS Hood to a New Zealand ship in 1937, about three years before it was sunk by the German battleship Bismarck during the Battle of the Denmark Strait in May 1941.

READ ALSO: Island Health opening 19 clinics to immunize Vancouver Island residents

As for getting the shot against COVID-19, Osborne said he doesn’t have any concerns.

“I feel OK,” he said. “In the navy we get lots of shots. Yellow fever, you name it, but we didn’t have any choice and we had to take medication against malaria when I was out in Burma. You didn’t have any choice. They just did you whenever they wanted to.”

Once again, Osborne found out he won’t have a choice about which vaccine he’ll be inoculated with.

“I told them when I was speaking to them yesterday, ‘Do you mind giving me that one shot? I’ve been waiting this long and I’d like to live a bit longer,’” he said. “[They said], ‘No, you’ll have to take whatever they give you.’”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: Stay informed about COVID-19



photos@nanaimobulletin.com
Like us on
Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusVancouver Island Health AuthorityVeterans

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID019 cases number have dropped dramatically according to the BC CDC epidemiology mapping for the week of April 11 to 17 . Nurse Angie Z. gets a thumbs up from Delores Campbell, one of the first of 9,008 residents to be vaccinated in the Prince Rupert community vaccination clinics in March. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View.
COVID-19 Case number plummet in Prince Rupert

BCCDC mapping shows a dramatic decrease in pandemic case number in the Prince Rupert region

Dreamfish are hung on the fence at Annunication School in Prince Rupert on April 17 as part of the Stream of Dream eco-education program teaching about local watersheds and salmon habitats. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Stream of Dreams fish swim the fence at Prince Rupert School

Students at Annunciation school learned about watershed protection and salmon habitat

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Registered Nurse, Teresa Friesen immunizes Dunrovin resident, Richard Brophy. Resident’s at the home were the first in Quesnel to receive COVID-19 vaccines. (Submitted Photo)
COLUMN: Vaccine floodgates should be opened

This editor’s column first appeared in the April 14 edition of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. sees 1,006 COVID-19 cases Thursday, ‘alarming’ 502 in hospital

Vaccine bookings for people aged 60 and older set to start

Most Read