“Now, knowing what I do, I would get the shot,” Wachter said. Doing so, she said, “could have saved myself and my family so much by having gotten the vaccination.”
Stories like Wachter’s are common these days. While the vast majority of American adults have been vaccinated against the virus, only 6 in 10 are fully vaccinated. Less than half of the population overall is fully vaccinated, in part because those younger than 12 are not yet eligible. Alarmingly, though, 1 in 5 adults 65 or older are not fully vaccinated against the virus that has proved particularly deadly to that age group.
While medical experts and political leaders have been clamoring for months for Americans to get vaccinated, many people view the process with the same hesitation as did Wachter. In polling conducted by Monmouth University published Monday, 17 percent of Americans said they would likely never be vaccinated, including about 1 in 11 adults over the age of 55 — the age group into which Wachter falls.
Her husband had encouraged her to get vaccinated, one of the primary motivations for getting the shot cited by those who’d initially been hesitant, according to polling from Kaiser Family Foundation released last month. A more common reason, cited by a quarter of those who changed their minds, was seeing that others got inoculated without side effects. Not included in the poll: people who heard horror stories from those who’d initially declined to get vaccinated.
People such as Quentin Bowen, a farmer also from Nebraska, who told the Journal Star that he “thought I had time” to get vaccinated — but didn’t before getting sick. He described having to tell his young children that he was going to the hospital as “about the hardest thing I’d done.”
Asked for what advice he’d offer those who hadn’t gotten a shot, he said, “Trust the science, forget the politics and the social media, and get vaccinated.”
Chris Ard of Alabama told a local television station that contracting pneumonia after his coronavirus infection “almost killed me.”
“I would recommend everybody get vaccinated,” he said. “Don’t wait because when it’s too late, it’s too late and there were times I was going through this that I regretted not getting vaccinated.”
A conservative radio host based in Tennessee, Phil Valentine, got sick with covid last month. At first, the effects seemed to be minimal. And then they weren't.
“What he regrets is not being more vehemently pro-vaccine,” his brother Mark told The Washington Post, “and when he gets back on the air, that’s exactly what he’s going to tell people.”
Kristen Hutton of Florida was nine months pregnant when she contracted covid.
“I thought I was going to die,” she said, describing the ordeal of having to give birth by Caesarean section while struggling to breathe. She hadn’t gotten vaccinated because of her pregnancy, but now says she wishes she had.
Hutton was relatively lucky. Blake Bargatze, 24, contracted the virus in Florida. He ended up having a double-lung transplant.
“As soon as he got in the hospital, though, he said he wished he had gotten the vaccine,” his stepfather told a local news station.
Tennessee state Rep. David Byrd (R) had similar advice for his constituents. Byrd contracted the virus last November and has been battling covid ever since. That included two months on a ventilator in the intensive care unit and a liver transplant.
“I have never been against taking the Covid-19 vaccine, but I understand the concerns of those who are hesitant. To them, I would say Covid is real and it is very dangerous,” his statement said. “It is a disease that wants to kill us. Please take it seriously. Please consider getting vaccinated.”
Last year, Byrd voted in favor of a resolution that criticized the media for “sensationalism” about the virus.
CNN's Randi Kaye visited a covid ward at a hospital in Florida last week. There, she spoke with several patients, each of whom expressed regret at not having been vaccinated.
The network’s Martin Savidge spoke with a man in Springfield, Mo., who was hospitalized with covid along with his wife.
“I hope people do think about getting the vaccination,” Louie Michael said. “It is your prerogative, but I wish I had done it to avoid this.”
“Hearing the concern as to whether or not they will ever see their kids grow to adulthood is so hard,” Barbieri wrote. “Hearing that same patient tell you that they wish they had gotten the vaccine and knowing that they could've is gut-wrenching.”
Lawrence and Lydia Rodriguez were both admitted to the hospital with covid last month. Lydia's cousin Dottie Jones told a local news station that “they didn't believe in vaccines.”
That sentiment changed.
“Before she got intubated, one of the last things she told her sister was, ‘Please make sure my children get vaccinated,’ ” Jones said.
The future for the Rodriguezes is uncertain; both remain on ventilators in an intensive care unit. Everyone else mentioned above, though, is relatively lucky. No, they didn’t get vaccinated and, yes, they got very sick. But they lived.
Micheal Freedy, 39, didn’t. He died of covid last week. His fiancee, who also didn’t receive a shot, spoke with CNN on Monday morning.
“We just wanted to wait a year from when it started to be — when it came out, like when it started to be available to people, like, just to watch and see what people’s reactions were to it,” Jessica DuPreez said of their not being vaccinated. “We didn’t think a year would matter.”
“If you’re hesitating, it’s not worth hesitating for. I’m not going to be able to change anybody’s mind who’s directly against it,” she added later in the interview. “But those of you that are hesitating and think, ‘It can’t happen to me because I’m young and’ — it can.”
Freedy’s last text message to her was blunt: “I should have gotten the damn vaccine.”
Their 7-year-old son still sends texts to his father’s phone, DuPreez said.
“The very first one was, ‘Dad, are you still alive?’ ”