Americas

She’s Vaccinated. He Isn’t. Now What?

Some households are now just partially vaccinated, leaving families split on how to enjoy new freedoms while protecting the safety of those who are still vulnerable.


By Sarah Maslin Nir

Burly and well over six feet tall, Andre Duncan takes pride in carrying the groceries for his wife, Michelle, and views himself as her personal bodyguard.

Now, she is his: Ever since she got the coronavirus vaccine in February, Ms. Duncan, who works in hospital management, has insisted she run their errands alone. When she goes shopping, Mr. Duncan, who is unvaccinated, stays home.

Mr. Duncan, 44, said he feels gratitude but also guilt, and that tension has altered the dynamic of their marriage. “She has to take risks and chances on her own, when that’s my partner, that’s my honey.”

As of this week, over 145 million shots have gone into arms since the vaccine began rolling out in the United States last December. But amid supply chain snarls and inconsistent state-by-state eligibility rules, just 16 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. As a result, an untold number of households now find themselves divided, with one partner, spouse, parent or adult child vaccinated and others waiting, sometimes impatiently, for their number to come up.

Now, after a year spent navigating job losses and lockdowns, sickness and fear, some families are experiencing the long-awaited arrival of vaccines with not elation or relief, but a fraught combination of confusion, jealousy or guilt.

“In that moment that I got the vaccine, instead of, ‘I should be so super-happy, I survived this nonsense,’ instead of all that I felt the biggest guilt of my life,” said Lolo Saney, 65, an elementary schoolteacher who lives in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Her mother, who lives abroad, is still waiting.

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