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'We waited too long': Woman urges others to get vaccinated after losing husband

"It all happened so fast," she said. "I wish we would have gotten vaccinated."

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Vaccine hesitancy, according to public health experts, remains one of the biggest challenges in stopping the continued spread of COVID-19.

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That's why a California woman is sharing her story of the devastating loss of her husband.

She said the two "weren't sure" about getting the COVID-19 vaccine until it was too late.

Mia and Brad Vinnard were together for 12 years, married for nine.

"We met in Old Sacramento. He was doing some karaoke there and had an amazing voice," Mia said. "We kinda both knew that we belonged together."

Their plans of spending forever together, however, got cut short.

Mia, describing their Sacramento home as lonely, empty and sad, is left now with only memories of the life the two shared.

"I keep expecting him to walk through the door," she said. "But that's not ever gonna happen again. And that's a hard pill to swallow."

Brad tested positive for COVID-19 at the end of June. He died after spending two weeks battling the virus in an intensive care unit.

"It all happened so fast," Mia explained. "I wish we would have gotten vaccinated. I mean one simple shot could've prevented all of this."

After starting to get sick on June 28, Brad struggled at home for a couple days. He tested his oxygen levels with a home oxygen meter. That's when he realized his condition was worsening.

"He was on the phone with the nurse and she said, 'Are you reading that correctly?' and he said, 'Yeah,'" Mia recounted. "She [the nurse] said, 'You need to get to the emergency room immediately!'"

Mia, who also tested positive for COVID-19 a few days after Brad, did not have to spend time in the hospital. She did, however, experience severe headaches, fever, vomiting, and loss of smell and taste.

She described her bout with the virus as "never having been that sick before."

"It's nothing like the flu," Mia said. "When people say that ... it was nothing like the flu."

She said the only time she could get out of bed was to take her husband to the hospital.

When she did get past the worst of her illness, she was only able to see Brad during his hospital stay through a window that looked into the ICU.

"I was there morning, noon and night. Sitting on the window sill just looking at him. And remembering. And praying."

Valerie Burdell, Brad's sister, came into town just before he died.

She, as well, is remembering Brad and the special bond the two had as the oldest siblings out of the five children in their family.

"We were very tight. We just had a closeness that ... I'll never have again," Burdell said. "And it could have been prevented. That's probably the part that's the hardest thing for me."

Memories of their childhood together — camping and racing go-karts — are bittersweet.

She said she spent the last year urging her brother to get vaccinated as soon as he could.

"I said, 'Brad, I'm begging you.' And it just got to where I had to stop. As a big sister, because I'm his oldest sister, it's always, 'nag, nag, nag,'" Burdell said. "I feel guilty sometimes for not pushing it harder."

She said she stopped texting him and talking with him about the COVID-19 vaccine because she felt it was driving a wedge between them.

"Not in a million years did I think I would lose my brother to something like this," Burdell said. "So I am begging my friends and my family to take this seriously."

Mia said she and Brad didn't seek out the COVID-19 vaccination. They weren't ready.

"We weren't vaccinated. We wanted to wait and see how people reacted to it," Mia said. "But we waited too long."

On July 11, six days before his death, Brad shared his final message to friends on his Facebook page.

"His last post was, 'Please go get vaccinated .... This is nothing nice,'" Mia explained. "That was his last post."

Now, Mia is determined to do her part, trying to protect others, by sharing his story. She said it's what Brad would have wanted her to do.

"If I can save one life for Brad then, you know, it doesn't have to be in vain," said Mia. "It's not gonna go away until everybody's vaccinated."

Just within the past week, Mia said at least two dozen of the couple's "vaccine-hesitant" friends have sent messages to her saying that after holding out, they have either received or scheduled their first vaccine shots after hearing Brad's story.