A widower has urged others to get vaccinated against coronavirus, after reconsidering his position on the jab since losing his wife to the deadly disease.
Ysmael Vega had been sceptical of the “rushed-through” jab’s side effects, but now says he wants everyone to get inoculated to avoid the same tragedy his family has experienced.
The couple and their teenage son caught the virus at the beginning of the month from one of their daughters, but only Mrs Vega became seriously ill.
She and her family, from Arizona, were unvaccinated due to concerns about vaccine side effects, Mr Vega explained in a series of media interviews after his wife’s death.
He told local radio station KTAR News that the family decided not to get a jab because of concerns over how quickly they had been produced. “Covid comes out and a year later, there’s a vaccine,” he said. “We didn’t know the side effects in the future.”
Mr Vega also cited the couple’s younger age as a reason for their decision to remain unvaccinated – a trend being seen across the world. In the UK, for instance, the latest NHS figures show that 131,150 people aged 18 to 24 had the first dose of a vaccine in the week to 18 July, which is barely a third of the 416,434 two weeks earlier.
It is thought the majority of under-30s believe that because the virus is most deadly for over-50s, younger people are unlikely to be harmed and so the jab is not a necessity.
In interviews with a number of people aged 30 and under, the Observer reported on Saturday that fertility concerns and potential side effects were listed as principal reasons for people skipping jabs.
In the US, Mr Vega said his wife – who leaves behind four children and 10 grandchildren – had seemed relatively fine after catching the virus but deteriorated rapidly on 13 July, when she was rushed to hospital.
Medical staff discovered a blood clot in one of the former healthcare worker’s lungs and told her husband she could not be saved. She died within the hour, Mr Vega told the local news station Fox 5.
“All I did was just hold her hand, massaged her hair, and told her how much I missed her,” he told the news channel. “But I saw peace. I didn’t see any more pain. The pain was just that she was gone.”
A GoFundMe page, set up in Mrs Vega’s honour, paid tribute to the “incredible beauty” of her personality and has so far raised more than £13,200 ($18,251) for her loved ones.
“Ferny left an incredible mark on so many lives and we need to honour that with strength and with love,” the GoFundMe page read. “She was a great listener with time for friends from all walks of life. She was as selfless as she was determined and left her mark on so many people.”
Mr Vega is himself now recovering from a bout of pneumonia, brought on by coronavirus, and said he has completely reconsidered his stance on Covid vaccines – and encouraged anyone else feeling hesitant to do the same.
“I’m going to get the vaccine – yes it’s not going to cover you 100 per cent,” he told KTAR News. “[But] what I experienced, I don’t want anyone else to experience this.”
He added: “Everybody has their own choice, but Covid is real and what I went through I don’t want to be back there again … I would recommend getting the vaccine and I am going to get the vaccine.”
Mrs Vega’s death comes just weeks after another unvaccinated American woman, this time from Missouri, also died from coronavirus.
Tricia Jones and her husband contracted the Delta variant in April after their son picked it up at school. She was hospitalised and on 13 May put onto a ventilator, but died less than a month later.
“She was afraid of the side effects, I think. You hear a lot of horror stories,” Deborah Carmichael, Ms Jones’ mother, said afterwards.
“I, myself, when I had the shot, it was rough, so it scared her and freaked her out. She didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t convince her.”
Ms Carmichael explained to Fox 4 that after her daughter was hospitalised, she admitted her mother had been “right about the shot, about masks, being diligent and all that”.
“I was like, ‘I don’t want to be right. I want you to be well. That’s all that matters’,” Ms Carmichael said.
Vaccine hesitancy is becoming more prominent in the US, which is especially problematic as health leaders attempt to roll out the remaining doses to people who have not yet received one.
The country reported an average of around 43,700 new cases per day last week, according to figures by Johns Hopkins University. This is up 65 per cent from the previous seven days and nearly three times as high as the level two weeks ago.
Infections hit a 15-month low in late June before they began to rise again, with fewer people taking up the vaccine and the more infectious Delta variant being blamed.
At a rally on Saturday night, former president and notorious Covid sceptic Donald Trump said it was up to the public to decide if they wanted to get a jab or not.
“What about the vaccine? I came up with vaccine. They said it’d take three to five years – it’s going to save the world. I recommend you take it but I also believe in your freedoms 100 per cent,” he told a crowd of nearly 5,000.