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

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet reviews 11 applications for RVs as seasonal housing

“Housing is so essential to everyone, and an issue that cases a lot of stress to business owners.”

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht public works dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

A B.C. Centre for Disease Control map showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 25-May 1. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island’s COVID-19 case counts continue to trend down

Fewer than 200 active cases on the Island, down from highs of 500-plus earlier this spring

Hotel Zed Tofino. (Westerly file photo)
Two Tofino businesses up for building awards

14th annual Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Gord Judson steers his log truck down a forest service road, using two-way radio and call signals to mark his position for oncoming traffic. (B.C. Forest Safety Council)
Planning some B.C. wilderness fishing? Don’t catch a log truck

Remote recreation areas bracing for heavy pandemic pressure

Former University of British Columbia student Stephanie Hale, 22. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff Bassett
Human Rights Tribunal to hear complaint against UBC Okanagan for ‘mishandling’ sexual assault report

Stephanie Hale did not return to campus after the student she alleges attacked her was cleared of wrongdoing

Jennifer Coffman, owner of Truffle Pigs in Field, B.C., poses beside her business sign on Thursday, May 6, 2021, in this handout photo. Her restaurant and lodge have been hit hard by a closure of a section of the Trans-Canada Highway and by the British Columbia government discouraging Alberta residents from visiting during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Jennifer Coffman, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
‘Why we survive’: B.C. boundary towns struggle without Albertans during pandemic

Jennifer Coffman’s restaurant is located in the tiny community of Field, which relies on tourism

NEW CUTLINE Payphone use is declining dramatically. (Black Press Files)

This payphone sits just east of TD Bank in Parksville, on Harrison Avenue. (Emily Vance photo)
Last call approaches for Vancouver Island payphones?

Some payphones don’t get used for days as mobile phones diminishing need

Garden centre manager Jack Olszewski and Chris Beaudoin say business has grown by 50 per cent at the Sooke Home Hardware Store. (Rick Stiebel - Sooke News Mirror)
Flower power: COVID restrictions fuel bloom boom on Vancouver Island’

More people seeking flowers to add colour, says Sooke landscaper

A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
A sign indicating face coverings are required by the establishment is pictured on the front door of a business in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. COVID-19 cases have been on a steady increase in the province of British Columbia over the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start releasing neighbourhood-specific COVID numbers after data leak

Documents obtained by the Vancouver Sun show cases broken down by neighbourhoods

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Black bear tranquillized, relocated after wandering around residential Ladysmith

A juvenile black bear was spotted near 2nd Avenue earlier Friday morning

Most Read