Samantha Wendell, 29, Died of COVID After Postponing the Vaccine Because 'She Was Worried About Her Fertility'
A Kentucky bride-to-be who put off getting the COVID-19 vaccine because she feared it might affect her fertility has died of the virus.
Samantha Wendell, 29, was set to marry her longtime boyfriend in late August, but she was hospitalized through her wedding date, according to NBC News. Her funeral was held at the church were she planned to get married, just weeks after she was supposed to have wed.
Wendell's fiancé, Austin Eskew, told NBC News that he and Wendell planned to start a family as soon as they got married. But, when some of her coworkers said that the COVID-19 vaccine could cause infertility, Wendell "just kind of panicked," Eskew said.
While Wendell originally chose not to be vaccinated, she decided that she would get the vaccine before her honeymoon to Mexico, as travel became more restricted for people who are unvaccinated. She and Eskew made appointments for the end of July, but Wendell developed COVID-19 less than a week before she was scheduled to get the vaccine.
"She could not stop coughing," Eskew said, noting that they both tested positive for COVID-19 and did not have underlying health conditions. Eskew said he developed a high fever but was able to treat his symptoms at home. A week after developing COVID-19, Eskew took Wendell to the hospital after she began gasping for air. There, doctors were unable to stabilize her, and she was put on a ventilator five days before her wedding date.
Wendell's mother, Jeaneen Wendell, told NBC News that her daughter asked doctors if she could be vaccinated against COVID-19 before she was put on a ventilator. "It wasn't going to do any good at that point, obviously," she said. "It just weighs heavy on my heart that this could have easily been avoided."
Wendell was eventually disconnected from life support after doctors told her family she had no chance of survival. Wendell's cousin, Maria Vibandor Hayes, shared a heartbreaking post to the COVID-19 survivor Facebook group Survivor Corps.
"Saying goodbye to a loved one via FaceTime isn't anything I want anyone else to have to experience, yet, so many of us continue to experience this painful loss and too many that have come before us," she wrote. "We said goodbye to my 29 year old cousin, Samantha, today. We were supposed to see her walk down the aisle two weeks ago. She was supposed to be on her honeymoon. She was supposed to bring beautiful babies into this world. In the coming days my flight home will be for her funeral. She was unvaccinated. She was worried about her fertility. Misinformation killed her....It didn't have to end this way."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) all recommend that women who are pregnant and trying to conceive receive the COVID-19 vaccine. ASRM said in a January statement that "COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant in order to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy."
The CDC dedicates an entire section on its website to addressing concerns for people who are trying to conceive, stressing that vaccination is recommended for them and their partners. Despite rumors, the CDC says that there is "no evidence" that the vaccine affects fertility. The organization also cites a study of women undergoing IVF that found no difference in success rates between those who had been vaccinated against COVID-19, had antibodies from a previous COVID-19 infection, and had no antibodies from the vaccine or an infection.
"Pregnancy after vaccination has been demonstrated in several studies," Barry Witt, MD, medical director at WINFertility, tells Health. "In the randomized blinded Pfizer-BioNTech trial, a similar number of women conceived after receiving the vaccine as those who received the placebo."
"Given the fact that pregnancy is considered a high-risk group for severity of COVID infection, with a higher risk for ICU admission, need for a ventilator, or even death, the COVID-19 vaccination has been strongly recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant in order to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy," Dr. Witt says.
Eskew says that he feels lost without Wendell, who he's been with since their freshman year of college. "She had so much influence in everything that I do," he said. "We didn't really ever do anything without the other in mind."
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