For months, Lisa Wilson has been going door-to-door in Belle Glade, Florida, trying to convince people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Wilson, a longtime aide to Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, persuaded pastors to preach about the need to get vaccinated. Her husband, Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson, was one of the first members of the western farming community to roll up his sleeves, hoping others would follow his example.
But despite Wilson’s insistence that the shots would save lives, some of her own family ignored her.
In the past three weeks, six of them have died from complications from COVID-19.
“I was in their ears almost every day. “You just have to do it,” Wilson said on Tuesday, reeling from the tragedy that devoured his family. “I fight myself. Should I have pushed harder?
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First an uncle, then a grandmother, then cousins
The nightmare began in late August when her 48-year-old uncle, Tyrone Moreland, passed away.
A day after the family gathered for his funeral, his 89-year-old grandmother, Lillie Mae Dukes Moreland, was hospitalized. The longtime Belle Glade player, who had nine children and also raised Wilson, died 24 hours later.
In quick succession, three other cousins, including Shatara Dukes, 48, and Lisa Wiggins, 53, followed.
On Sunday, Trentarian Moreland, 44, who spent years as an assistant football coach at various Palm Beach County high schools, died of the deadly virus.
Wilson suspects his uncle and Shatara Dukes, who shared the same birthday, of catching the virus in a pantry where they both worked.
But, she says, there doesn’t seem to be any connection between the others.
Family members who had recently visited her grandmother have been tested. The results all came back negative. But, she said, her grandmother was known to invite neighbors to her porch and into her house for a chat.
“We just don’t know,” Wilson said.
Wilson is even more perplexed as to why his family members have so stubbornly refused to be vaccinated.
“In my grandmother’s case, I think some of her kids advised her not to do this,” Wilson said. “They said she was too old, that it wasn’t safe, that she never left the house, anyway.”
As if to underline what his children said, his grandmother’s 93-year-old brother was hospitalized with COVID-19 shortly after being vaccinated. Wilson said she suspected he was already infected with the virus when he was vaccinated.
But, even though her brother survived, her grandmother took it as a bad omen.
“I think it made him secure,” she said. “It was a big, big part hanging over her.”
As for the others, she said, they were undoubtedly influenced by false reports on social media or by people who convinced them that the vaccine had been developed too quickly and that it was not. sure.
“I think a lot of them were scared to take it,” she said.
But, she said, as the highly contagious delta variant began to spread, her concerns grew.
She said she was particularly worried about her elderly grandmother and her uncle, who lost one of her kidneys several years ago and was awaiting a transplant.
“I told him every day, ‘You have to take it. You have to take it, ”Wilson said.
The last time she spoke to her uncle in a Facetime conversation from her hospital bed, he told her he would have liked to take her advice.
“Tell our whole family to get the vaccine. It’s horrible. It hurts, ”she said, crying, as he reached for air.
She said she couldn’t bring herself to talk to her grandmother on Facetime. When she took her grandmother to the hospital, doctors said her prognosis was grim.
“I didn’t want to see her with tubes running around and watching her struggle to breathe,” Wilson said. “Other grandchildren did and they regretted it.”
This wave is ebbing, but another will follow, according to county health director
McKinlay mentioned Wilson’s tragic story on Tuesday as the county commission received a regular update on the current state of the pandemic.
Figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the spread of the virus has slowed in Florida in recent weeks after the delta variant made August the deadliest month since the start of the pandemic.
Dr Alina Alonso, director of the county’s health department, said she expects the lull to be temporary. Like last year, she said she expects an increase in the number of cases after the vacation meetings.
She and others continue to preach that widespread immunization is the only way to stop the spread.
Still, only 63.9% of county residents aged 12 and older are fully vaccinated, while 74.4% have had at least one injection, according to the CDC.
Although some people have some protection because they have recovered from the disease, it is still likely that people are resistant to vaccines.
“It’s not a lack of education. It’s not a lack of availability, ”said Alonso. “These are people who make the conscious decision not to get the vaccine.”
McKinlay said she doesn’t understand why holdouts wouldn’t be vaccinated, but many have no qualms about receiving monoclonal antibody treatment after being infected.
The treatment, which is offered free of charge at state-run centers across the state, including one at Westgate Recreation Center near West Palm Beach, involves an hour-long intravenous infusion. Or people can have four injections – two in the arm and two in the stomach.
In comparison, the vaccine requires one or two injections into the arm, she said.
Some wonder why vaccine opponents are seeking monoclonal therapy
Many people, like Wilson’s family members, say they won’t get vaccines because they believe the vaccines have been rushed into production, McKinlay said.
They point out that the vaccines have only received emergency use authorization, although the one produced by Pfizer has since received full federal authorization.
Monoclonal treatment still only has an emergency use authorization. And unlike the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which tell the body to make antibodies against the virus, the monoclonal treatment antibodies are man-made.
“People object to getting the vaccine, but agree to receive monoclonal therapy,” McKinlay said. “It annoys me to think that someone is against getting the vaccine but can get the treatment which has the same approval status as the vaccine.”
Commissioner Gregg Weiss said it was also an expensive treatment.
People can get it for free because the federal government bought it from pharmaceutical giant Regeneron.
At around $ 1,500 per person, it cost around $ 6 million to treat the roughly 4,100 residents of the county who have received it since the Westgate center opened on August 19. Statewide, it cost $ 123 million to treat the 82,125 people who used the state. management centers, he said.
“I’m glad we have it, but it also comes at a cost,” Weiss said. “Someone is taking the note.”
Wilson said the cost of the disease to his family was enormous.
But, she said, as family members gather for another funeral, her message is finally being heard. She said about 10 family members have recently been vaccinated.
Yet, she says, she mourns what is lost. She misses her uncle, whom she described as a “gentle giant” who was the “life of the party”.
Plans were already underway to celebrate her grandmother’s 90th birthday in March.
“She was a really strong person,” Wilson said. “She had never been sick for a single day in her life. She has always been able to move forward.
This article originally appeared on the Palm Beach Post: COVID Kills 6 Unvaccinated Palm Beach County Family Members in 3 Weeks