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Spanish flu survivor gets COVID-19 vaccination

Ursula Haeussler is a 105-year-old Kaiser Permanente member who just got her COVID-19 vaccination.

Ursula Haeussler was 3 years old when the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed at least 50 million people worldwide.

Now 105 years old, Haeussler is living through a second pandemic.

She said it’s terrible how many people have gotten sick and died from COVID-19. That’s why she is grateful she was able to get vaccinated last Friday at the Kaiser Permanente Fremont Medical Center.

“I feel very honored,” she said. “People should be very thankful now. We have a vaccine and a way to get help.”

Thankful for vaccine

Born on May 17, 1915, Haeussler has lived through a lot.

She remembers when the Spanish flu first captured the world’s attention. She was a young girl living on her family’s farm in Berlin, Germany. Her father had just returned from World War I and she remembers he was worried everyone in his family would get the virus and die.

She said the pandemic took the lives of her uncle, who was just 34 years old, her 27-year-old godmother who was an opera singer, and one of the family’s maids, who collapsed and died in front of her.

“Everyone died at that time; there was no medication,” she said. “People should be thankful we have a vaccine now.”

That’s why Haeussler wants to encourage everyone to get the COVID-19 vaccine when they are able.

Life changed after the COVID-19 pandemic

Haeussler said living through a second pandemic hasn’t been easy.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Haeussler was living on her own in an apartment. She did her own laundry and cooked her own meals. She enjoyed going to restaurants.

Daughter Cora Assali looks on as her mother is given a vaccination by nurse Lynette Santiago.

But after the pandemic started, her 79-year-old daughter Cora Assali was worried about her mom being on her own and brought Haeussler to live with her. She spends most of her time now reading books and watching television.

But Haeussler said getting the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine has given her hope, and she is looking forward to when she can go out again. Other than arthritis, which makes it difficult for her to walk, and poor eyesight, Haeussler is in relatively good health.

She is appreciative of the “nice people” at Kaiser Permanente who gave her the vaccine and all of the health care workers who have helped people during the pandemic.

Haeussler said she never thought she would live to 105. She has other relatives who have also lived long lives, including her mom who died at 97.

“My mom always said people shouldn’t get so old and I must say she was right. You really have to depend on other people.”

But Haeussler’s daughter said it’s a blessing to still have her mom around.

“She’s totally sharp and remembers everything,” Assali said. “Although the pandemic has been cramping her style a bit, she’s living a good life.”

Kaiser Permanente is committed to getting the COVID-19 vaccine to our members and communities as soon as possible, in accordance with state guidelines, equitably, and as vaccine supplies allow. We are grateful for everyone’s patience as we anticipate additional vaccine deliveries over the coming weeks.

We will update the website as new information becomes available.


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