Josh Willis telling late wife Samantha’s story so that others might get vaccinated

The widower of Samantha Willis says he can’t advise anyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 but is telling his wife’s story so that people can make up their own mind.

Josh Willis with his late wife Samantha.
Josh Willis with his late wife Samantha.

The 35-year-old mother-of-four died last Friday after contracting COVID-19. The care worker had been pregnant when she contracted the virus at the end of July.

She hadn’t been vaccinated because she was holding out until the birth of her new baby before undergoing inoculation.

Tragically, Samantha never got that chance. Though baby Eviegrace was born on August 5, her mother succumbed to COVID-19 illness last Friday, August 20.

“She hadn’t been vaccinated. We found out on Boxing Day that she was pregnant and obviously the advice at the time was that they weren’t advising pregnant women to get vaccinated,” said Josh.

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Her late husband was referring to the advice issuing from various health authorities at the early stages of the pandemic.

Back in December Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) was advising that while the available data at that time did not indicate any safety concern or harm to pregnancy, there was ‘insufficient evidence to recommend routine use of COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy’.

It was not until April that the JCVI emphatically advised that pregnant women should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine.

This was based on real-world data from the US that showed 90,000 pregnant women had been vaccinated, mainly with mRNA vaccines including Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, without any safety concerns.

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The clear medical advice now is that the vaccines are safe for pregnant women, who are deemed a specific COVID-19 risk group.

Josh said that in deference to her role as a care worker Samantha had been ultra-vigilant about not spreading the virus.

“Between her job and my job, she could have been in 20 or more houses a day. Part of my job involves going into vulnerable people’s houses as well.

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“Between all that, being careful, doing the PPE, not going out socialising, we only went out when we had to.

“We were basically in hibernation. We had made it this far so another seven or eight weeks will not make a difference, we thought, and she’ll get vaccinated after the baby is born.”

Josh said now is not the time for ‘what ifs’. He also said he has no right to tell anyone what they should do. However, he believes telling Samantha’s story has encouraged more people to take the vaccine.

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“I can’t advise people to take it but I’m telling her story so they can make up their own mind.

“I’ve heard stories since the weekend that people have made up their minds after hearing her story, I’m sure those thousands of people who got vaccinated on Saturday and Sunday, some of them saw my Facebook post on the Friday night and the news breaking and that was enough to tip them over the edge to go and get it.

“I know one of her friends stood for three hours at Foyle Arena to get her first one.”