Meet Christy Carpenter. This Alabama mom believed Covid-19 was a hoax. She and her two kids refused to get vaccinated. Christy and her sweet autistic son Curt contracted Covid-19 and Pneumonia, and spent a month in the hospital. Christy came home; Curt died.
“It took watching my son die and me suffering the effects of Covid for us to realize we need the vaccine,” Carpenter told The Washington Post. “We did not get vaccinated when we had the opportunity and regret that so much now.”
You may have heard of Stephen Harmon. The high profile 34-year-old Hillsong member, who had a large following on Twitter and Instagram, joked on June 3rd about how he wouldn’t be getting the vaccine. (All of Harmon’s tweets have since been placed behind a privacy wall.)
Prior to that, back in May, he created a meme mocking Dr. Anthony Fauci and the Center for Disease Control. On July 8, he tweeted, “Biden’s door to door vaccine ‘surveyors’ really should be called JaCovid Witnesses. #keepmovingdork”
A few weeks later, Harmon revealed he was in the ICU fighting Covid-19. He bravely and humbly documented his battle over the next few days as he grew worse. His final, heartbreaking tweet was on July 21, a tragic announcement that he was about to undergo intubation, and that “[I] don’t know when I’ll wake up, please pray.” He never did.
Tricia Jones, a 45-year-old mother of two from Missouri, hesitated to get the vaccine after her mother experienced some nasty side effects. Her mother urged her to get the vaccine anyway, but Jones refused. Soon, Jones fell ill with Covid-19, and so did her husband and junior high-age son.
After contracting the virus, she told her mother, “Mom, you were right about the shot, about masks, about being diligent and all that.” Her mother replied, “I don’t want to be right. I want you to be well. That’s all that matters.”
Tricia Jones died less than a month after being admitted to the hospital. She spent her last days on a ventilator. She’s survived by her husband, son, and an 18-year-old daughter.
“There were so many days where I would just stand there next to my mom and say, ‘Wake up, Mama. Wake up.’ She would never wake up, and I just wish that she would. I don’t think anyone should have to go through what we went through,” Jones’ daughter Adriana told local WFLA news.
Wyoming author Ross Bagne refused the vaccine when he became eligible for it in February. He was 68-years-old, but felt certain the virus would never reach him because he spent most of his time secluded. He died on June 4 after three weeks in the hospital with fluid filling his lungs. A stroke prevented him from being able to swallow. As she grieves his unnecessary loss, Bagne’s sister Karen is sharing his story with others as a cautionary tale.
Vibrant elementary school teacher Kim Maginn, a healthy 63-year-old from Arkansas, had two daughters who were both vaccinated, one of them a nurse. They pleaded with their mom to please get the vaccine; she stubbornly refused. Kim’s own mother had died from Covid-19 in a nursing home in October. Now her daughters mourn her loss, one of them repeating the common refrain about how gut-wrenching it is to “have a family member be ill and you can’t go in and hug them and touch them and help to care for them.”
Rob Tersteeg of North Dakota wasn’t opposed to the vaccine; he simply wasn’t in any hurry to get it because he had no underlying health conditions. He died on June 3 at just 46-years-old, after weeks of treatment. “He never thought it could happen to him,” said his wife Amy. “I want people to see what Covid really does. I want them to know that Rob received every Covid treatment, and it did not save him.”
Fernanda Vega of Arizona, 47, and her husband never got the vaccine because they were worried about side effects. Vega worked in healthcare, but still refused to vaccinate. When her husband Ysmael contracted Covid-19, it was quickly passed to her and their 17-year-old son. Ysmael is still recovering from both Covid and Pneumonia, but the virus hammered his treasured wife Fernanda much harder.
She rushed to the emergency room on July 13, where a blood clot was found in her lungs. She died less than an hour later. Unlike most Covid patients, Fernanda was not alone as she passed, due to the sheer speed at which it happened. Ysmael “held her hand, massaged her hair, told her how much I [would] miss her.” She was a mother of four, and a grandmother of 10. Ysmael has no more hesitancy about getting his shot once he’s fully recovered. “With what I have experienced, I don’t want to go through this again. I do not,” he said.
46-year-old Brandon Antoine turned down the vaccine, telling friends he had “done the research and wanted to wait.” Privately, he staunchly refused it and advised his mother Betty not to get it either. Betty begged him to get the vaccine because he had COPD and “a bad heart.” He died just six days after being diagnosed with Covid-19. Betty arranged for vaccinations to be offered at his funeral — an act that resulted in at least 13 of Brandon’s friends and family becoming vaccinated.
For every publicized death like these, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands more that remain private. And the data shows that as much as 99% of all Covid fatalities in the U.S. happening now are happening to unvaccinated individuals. In other words, Covid-19 has “become a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
One Alabama doctor wrote a heartbreaking Facebook post this week about how she’s been admitting “young healthy people with very serious Covid infections” to her hospital every day, all of them unvaccinated. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”
Remarkably, many of the 100 million unvaccinated Americans are workers in the healthcare industry itself. For patients on the outside looking in, this seems counterintuitive. Healthcare workers were the first to be offered the vaccine, after all, and for good reason. Shouldn’t doctors and nurses know better than anyone the dangers of being unvaccinated? Shouldn’t they want to get the vaccine, to ensure that they aren’t responsible for spreading the virus among their patients?
One study found that as many as 38% of nurses working in the United States were still unvaccinated as of July 11. Why would they of all people refuse a life-saving measure?
Dr. Michelle Moniz of the University of Michigan says that on the whole, it’s not coming from a place of “overall vaccine skepticism, but rather specific concerns about the lack of long-term data on safety, efficacy, and potential side effects.”
Their flames of hesitancy have been fanned by many hospitals and healthcare systems mandating vaccinations among its workers — or they’re fired. Houston Methodist, the University of Pennsylvania, Duke, New York Presbyterian, and St. Jude have joined the dozens of healthcare systems now requiring employee vaccinations. Colleges, schools with children 12 and above, and some private businesses are joining in as well. These institutions are legitimately doing what they think is best — and the data about deaths now occurring almost entirely among the unvaccinated backs them up.
Still, a surprising number of nurses, teachers, and others feel strongly enough about never getting the vaccine that they’re willing to walk away from hard-earned or lifelong careers in order to do what they feel they must. Before judging them, consider that hesitancy is not unreasonable for a vaccine this new and untested.
It’s always scary putting something into your body when you have no idea how your body will react. (Which is basically true of any medication.) That fear is made worse when someone threatens to force that substance upon you.
I’ve seen and felt that fear and hesitancy firsthand.
A 13-year-old boy I know wound up at a specialty children’s hospital with Myocarditis, aka inflammation around his heart, after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. It was a frightening time for all involved. Yet every doctor that saw the boy told his parents that despite the side effects, they’d done the right thing by having him vaccinated. Because the symptoms and effects of Covid are so much worse than what he did or could have experienced.
On July 9, the CDC released a study on reports of Myocarditis after Covid-19 vaccinations, and found that the vast majority of them are happening to adolescent boys.
After 296 million doses of mRNA vaccine administered in the United States, just 1,226 incidents of Myocarditis were reported between December 29, 2020 and June 11, 2021. (That’s 0.0004%.) The key metric in that report is buried deep within the numbers: out of all 1,226 reported cases of post-vaccination Myocarditis, “none had died.”
Infection Fatality Ratio (IFR), aka how many people die from contracting a particular disease, has been notoriously tricky to determine for Covid-19. Not all cases are properly reported, and so on. One report in October of 2020, a look at Covid-19 IFR globally, believed it to be 1.15%. Other studies have suggested it to be higher or lower. What isn’t in question is that more than 4 million people around the world have died from Covid-19.
Call me a simpleton, but 4 million fatalities from Covid-19 vs. any number of non-fatal Myocarditis cases seems like pretty easy math.
The 13-year-old I mentioned received steroids and recovered quickly. He’s healthy now and doing great. That boy is my son. As scary as that week was when he was under observation, his mother and I would do it again because being unvaccinated carries far greater risk. Myocarditis is of course something we wish he hadn’t experienced. But other than some moderate chest pains, he never suffered. He never got Pneumonia, fluid never filled his lungs, he was never intubated, and he didn’t die.
He didn’t painfully, slowly slip away with neither of us by his side.
There’s no doubt that vaccinating comes with risks. It’s okay to be worried about that. Caution isn’t just normal, it’s prudent. We still don’t understand the full pathology of Covid itself, much less all the variables and outcomes that can result from taking the vaccine. And nobody likes being told what to do, especially about something as personal as your own body.
There’s no denying that the circumstances surrounding vaccination are far from ideal for many Americans. Especially when they’re being told, “get vaccinated… or else.”
But those frustrating circumstances are clouding a much simpler, clearer issue.
Around fifteen years ago, a doctor of mine talked me into getting the flu shot for the first time. I’ve gotten it every year since.
She asked why I’d never had it before. I reminded her that I have several autoimmune diseases and I was concerned about how my system would react. Allowing myself to be infected, even with a virus that’s inactive, seemed like a risk not worth taking. Besides, with my immune system compromised, the chances of a vaccine preventing me from getting the flu seemed slim. Even if it worked, I would probably never know. The risk didn’t outweigh a benefit that might as well be a fantasy, I told her.
I think she was probably fighting the urge to roll her eyes, but she held her poker face admirably. “This is the common misconception about vaccines,” she said. “You don’t get the flu vaccine to keep you from coming down with the flu. You get the vaccine to keep you from dying from the flu.”
That’s it. That’s the bottom line.
Vaccinated, unvaccinated — there are no guaranteed outcomes in this thing. You’re taking a risk either way. All of the people I mentioned earlier were real people. They had spouses, partners, parents, kids, siblings, and friends who cared about them very much. All of those loved ones are now left behind with unbearable grief. There are holes in their lives that can never be filled.
They gambled against the vaccine. They lost.
If you’re reading this, you still have a choice.
Please don’t die.