For the families of those who are dying now, the whole issue of vaccination has created a new layer of discomfort – and a series of difficult questions that no one asked themselves in the first months of the crisis, before the vaccines.
Hollie Rivers was devastated in the weeks following the death of her husband, Antwone, in Michigan. Mr Rivers had helped raise their blended family of five children, Ms Rivers said, and had worked his way up to managerial level in her job at a vehicle logistics company. She said he had become her life partner – the “Charlie” as she called him, to her “Angel”. At her funeral this month, she helped carry the casket.
“I wanted to hold it until the very end, until I couldn’t hold it back,” said Ms. Rivers, 28.
But after Ms Rivers gave an interview to a Detroit-area TV station and revealed her husband had not been vaccinated, she said she faced critical comments online. She and her husband had hesitated at first, she said, but were considering getting the vaccine. Then Mr Rivers, 40, fell ill in early April, his wife said, before Michigan opened up vaccination for people his age.
Ms Rivers described some comments online, including on a GoFundMe family page, as blatantly hostile: “He refused the shot, how dare you ask for the money?” she recalled the tone of a suggestive message.
“Now I just want to cancel it. It’s not about the money, ”said Ms. Rivers, who is on short leave from work to install car door panels. “I would live in a cardboard box if that meant my husband came back to me and his children.”
Dr Miles, the epidemiologist who studies grief, said she has seen such a dynamic manifested in deaths from diseases like lung cancer or diabetes.