WASHINGTON -- A Texas mother of four refused a COVID-19 vaccine, but after losing her husband to the virus and contracting it herself, her dying wish was clear: get her children immunized.
Lydia Rodriguez, 42, a piano teacher in the small town of La Marque died on Monday, two weeks after her husband, Lawrence, 49, succumbed to the virus.
Rodriguez' cousin Dottie Jones told the local television station ABC13 that the couple did not believe in vaccines. When Rodriguez changed her mind, it was too late.
"Before she got intubated, one of the last things she told her sister was 'Please make sure my children get vaccinated,'" Jones said. "She would be there for her kids right now if she had been vaccinated."
The couple were among tens of millions of Americans who have not yet received a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as the Delta variant was spreading fast across the country.
Only 59.6% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated against the virus as the government's massive immunization campaign faces resistance from politically conservative states like Texas.
As cases soar, this week U.S. officials approved a third COVID-19 shot for all American adults. The booster will become available in late September.
Jones, who is a nurse, said she tried to convince Rodriguez to get immunized, but to no avail.
"It just breaks my heart that people are believing the misinformation that's out there," she said. "The misinformation is killing people, and we need to get the truth out there."
Jones organized a fundraising campaign to help the couple's children and decided to make the story public to raise awareness and urge people to get vaccinated.
"This is really happening in our family, and it is the true story of what can happen," Jones said. "I am not trying to scare people. I just want people to understand this virus is real, and this Delta variant is more brutal that anything we've seen."
In Texas, one of America's largest states, Delta has become the dominant strain of the virus, and deaths have spiked sharply, mostly among the unvaccinated.
But in a hopeful sign, vaccinations have picked up across Texas in recent weeks. According to official data, nearly 55% of Texans over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated and 66% have gotten at least one dose.