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102-year-old former pilot receives COVID vaccine in North Van

Jaye Edwards has lived an adventurous life, including a stint as a civilian pilot in the Second World War. She's now the oldest person on the North Shore to get vaccinated for COVID-19.

As a young woman in her 20s, North Vancouver’s Jaye Edwards flew planes like Spitfires and Barracudas as a civilian pilot, moving them around Britain for the country’s Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA).

Often, she’d fly the plane from the factory where it had been produced to the air force base where it would be deployed. Sometimes, she’d just have a chance to study the manual before hopping into the cockpit of an unfamiliar plane.

Compared to that, it’s probably not surprising that it was a breeze for Edwards to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

At 102, Edwards recently became the oldest person on the North Shore to receive the vaccine so far.

Edwards was the first to receive the vaccine this month at her assisted living home Cedar Gardens in Lynn Valley.

“Have you ever had a prick of your finger when you’re sewing? That’s about what it felt like,” she said, adding she felt fine afterwards.

Vaccines save lives, says Edwards

Edwards said she never gave the idea of whether to get the vaccine or not too much thought: “Vaccines could save your life,” she said. “Vaccines don’t hurt you.”

With over a century of life under her belt, Edwards has seen first-hand the impacts of illness that once ravaged communities and have now been made moot through vaccination campaigns.

When she was a girl, she had a classmate who contracted polio and became disabled. The boy had to use crutches and had to be carried up and down flights of stairs, Edwards recalled.

The boy had caught polio – now preventable through vaccination – from his father, Edwards recalled.

As a girl, Edwards’ two sisters got measles and she was taken to stay with an aunt to try to prevent her catching the virus.

Later, when she was older she had both measles and rubella.

“I survived,” she said.

Edwards did more than that – she went on to have an adventurous life as a civilian pilot in the Second World War, flying planes between 1943 and 1945.

Edwards was among over 160 women who performed that role and is one of only two surviving members of the group.

Later, Edwards worked as a nanny and later taught school after settling in North Vancouver, where she also enjoyed an active life of hiking and skiing in the local mountains.

Going outside again soon is one of the things Edwards says she’s hoping the vaccination plan will allow.

Since the pandemic began in earnest last March, Edwards has been mostly stuck at home in her room, with only essential visits and deliveries from her son. She's making the best of the situation. “I’m well looked after,” she said. “I live a very quiet life here.”

Edwards credits the staff at her assisted living home for keeping her and the other residents safe.

“It’s them keeping healthy that keeps us healthy,” she said.

According to Vancouver Coastal Health, vaccination clinics have now been conducted in all long-term care homes on the North Shore and a number of assisted living homes. Eligible residents, staff and visitors designated as “essential” were all offered the vaccine during the clinics.

Seniors who had COVID over 3 months ago will now get vaccine

One group who didn’t get the vaccine the first time were care home residents who had previously contracted COVID-19, because they still have some level of natural immunity.

However, advice from B.C.’s Centre for Disease Control has now been changed, and seniors who contracted coronavirus more than three months ago will now receive the vaccine.

As of the end of last week, about 28,740 doses of the vaccine had been administered in Vancouver Coastal Health to care home residents, staff and essential visitors as well as to health care staff who work in COVID wards and emergency wards. That included about 1,700 people who have had a second dose of the vaccine.