One Missouri family seeing toll of COVID-19 among unvaccinated

COLUMBIA — One family. Two dead. Two in serious condition. At least six quarantining.

Columbia resident Marlene Thomas has seen her family suffer the worst impact of COVID-19 even after the vaccine arrived. 

Marlene Thomas wanted to share her story to encourage others to take COVID-19 and the vaccine seriously. 

"None of them were vaccinated," she said. 

Thomas said she talked with her youngest sister numerous times about getting the vaccine. She said her sister was not interested in getting the vaccine. 

She said her sister thought she wasn't out of the house enough to catch the virus. 

"She didn't know what the long term effects of the vaccine would be," Thomas said. "Well, COVID was her long term, and she's gone and I may lose her daughter and husband too." 

She died after contracting COVID-19 in June. Thomas had already lost her brother's wife to COVID-19 in late 2020 after she contracted it in a nursing home in Texas.

Thomas has two other family members in the hospital with COVID-19 complications and their immediate family is quarantining.

COVID-19 affecting family in rural areas

According the the CDC, Americans living in more rural communities are more likely to be a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The lack of health care access and social inequities mean rural Americans often have more underlying conditions that put them at greater risk. 

Thomas said she agreed and had more of the story to share. 

"My two grandsons and one of their wives and their dad all got it," Thomas said. "And they all live in rural Sullivan County." 

She said one just suffered minor symptoms. However, the other one had a more serious situation. 

"He had everything," Thomas said. "He had pneumonia, he didn't end up in the hospital, but he had to go there twice to the emergency room to get fluids." 

Thomas said they were both unvaccinated prior to contracting the virus. One has fully recovered and the other is still recovering. 

She said as of now the one with minor symptoms has gotten the first dose of the vaccine. The other is still experiencing the lasting effects of COVID-19 and taking his doctor's advice to wait to get vaccinated until the symptoms clear up.

Marlene's message

"Why are people not getting vaccinated?" Thomas asked. 

She said she had no hesitation about getting the vaccine. 

"I'd already heard how many people were dying from COVID, and I didn't want to die," Thomas said. "I was anxious to get it, the vaccine." 

She said she understands that people still have concerns, however, she said this is serious. 

"If they're worried about the long term effects of the vaccine, the long term effects of COVID are a lot worse," Thomas said. "It could mean death." 

Death and serious illness is something that Thomas and her family are still dealing with. She said that she hopes her story will encourage others to be safe and smart. 

"If I could convince just one person to get vaccinated by hearing my story, it would mean the world," she said. 

She said that one person could save the virus from spreading even further and saving other families from going through what hers is currently experiencing. 

"I just wish that everyone would get vaccinated," Thomas said. "And wear a mask too."