Iowa woman, 104, gets COVID-19 vaccine decades after surviving 1918 flu pandemic

Iowa woman, 104, gets COVID-19 vaccine decades after surviving 1918 flu pandemic

A 104-year-old Iowa woman who was a child during the 1918 flu pandemic has officially received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, per local reports. 

Velma McElderry received her first dose of the vaccine on Saturday, marking what KETV-TV reported was the first time she left her home in a year, as she remained isolated away from friends and family to protect herself from the novel disease. 

McElderry’s daughter, Sue Peters, took her to the appointment. The Council Bluffs woman told the news station that the jab “wasn’t that bad.” 

“It will be a big relief once she can get that second shot and start to see family and they can come all the way in the house and not have to worry about standing at the door or staying six feet apart. That will be nice,” Peters said.

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Speaking separately to the Sioux City Journal, Peters said her mother has been keeping up with the COVID-19 pandemic coverage from isolation and has been eager to get the vaccine. 

“She reads a lot about the pandemic,” Peters said. “She talks about what is going on, how many people are getting the vaccine, and how many people have died. She’s been very interested in it since it began. She has been wanting to get the vaccine.”

McElderry, who has three children of her own in addition to five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, was 2-years old when the flu pandemic took over the world in 1918. Though her family was spared, Peters told the news station that she recalls her mother telling stories from that time as she was growing up. 

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“She did talk about it a little bit, how her mom would talk about the devastation and how it could it wipe out whole families,” Peters said, adding that her mother likely was more protected living in a small mining town called Olmitz at the time. 

“It’s longevity. She’s a trooper. She’s amazing,” Peters added of her mother.