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

Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, is the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos)
A micro brewery is being eyed for Jordan River. However, the site where the brewery is proposed still needs to go through the rezoning process. (Black Press Media file)
Micro brewery proposed for Jordan River

Jordan River Brewing Company envisions to build wholesale, sit-in brewery along Highway 14

Traffic waits at the intersection of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue. A study found failing levels of service at the intersection of Highway 17 and Sidney’s Beacon Avenue for multiple movements during morning peak traffic and for all left-moving traffic during afternoon peak traffic. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Province supports potential interim improvements to Sidney intersection

Province says interchange is the long-term plan for intersection of Beacon Avenue and Highway 17

Oak Bay local Lachlan Kratz (red, middle) has signed with pro rugby team NOLO Gold in Louisiana. (Contributed photo)
Oak Bay local signs with pro rugby team

Lachlan Kratz at 21 is now NOLO Gold’s youngest member

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read