COVID and Couples: When one person is vaccinated but not the other

The past year has been tough for Dr. Nicolas Hernandez. The family medicine physician at Northwell Health lost his grandfather and mother-in-law to COVID-19.

"We're praying that we don't lose anyone else," he said.

While he was one of the first to get vaccinated in December, he still hasn't been able to get an appointment for his wife, who works in manufacturing and is considered an essential worker.

"There's a sense of I have a shield and she doesn't," he said.

Couples we spoke with say it isn't a good feeling being the only one in a relationship who is protected.

Ed Libassi already received his second shot while his wife Kathy just managed to make herself an appointment for April.

"I felt guilty and I would've preferred she got the vaccine than myself," he said.

But Kathy had no doubt all along that the first appointment would go to Ed, who is fighting prostate cancer.

"When I clicked, I knew he'd be the one I put in and not myself," she said.

Margery Quackenbush, 82, made an appointment for her 91-year-old husband Robert through the Department of Veterans Affairs. She was hoping to get vaccinated while there but couldn't because she isn't a veteran.

"I'm over 65," Quackenbush said. "I take care of him, too. That didn't count."

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Sound Beach Fire Department Chief Darran Handshaw said he hopes it isn't much longer before his wife gets the vaccine.

"It's scary going out on calls," he said. "I have to make sure I don't bring it home to my wife and son."

Doctors say vaccinations are the key to herd immunity but just because you're vaccinated doesn't mean you're in the clear. You could still get COVID-19 but it would likely be a milder case. And you may still transmit the virus to others. 

"It doesn't mean you're Superman," Dr. Aaron Glatt, the chairman of the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai South Nassau, said. "You still have to mask and social distance." 

As vaccine manufacturers focus on protecting the public from new strains, having more people vaccinated will only continue to bring down transmission rates.