In a moving post on social media, Edgar Ramirez, who stars in the new Disney movie Jungle Cruise, mourned the loss of five loved ones to COVID-19. The Venezuelan actor also shared a powerful plea for those who have access to the COVID-19 vaccines to actually get them.
“Unfortunately the miracle didn’t happen,” Ramirez began the Instagram post. “After a gruesome agony my aunt Lucy died on Saturday. And after being stabilized for a few days and in only a matter of hours my uncle Guillermo collapsed and died on Sunday. In less than 24 hours, COVID had taken both of their lives. We had not yet collected my aunt’s ashes when we were due to incinerate my uncle’s body.”
Ramirez continued, explaining that he lost another “dear friend” on Monday to the coronavirus—and he’d previously lost his grandmother a month ago as well as his friend and agent four months ago. “My heart can’t just take more pain. I am sad, I am devastated, I am frustrated,” he wrote.
“None of them had been vaccinated. None had access to the vaccine in Venezuela,” Ramirez continued. “Meanwhile tens of thousands of vaccines are being thrown away in the United States because a large number of people don’t want them. It breaks my heart that so many people in this country are willing to snub the very vaccine my family would have taken in an instant.”
In the caption alongside the post, Ramirez begged his followers to read the post carefully. “It is the most painful and the most intimate thing I have had to publish in my life, but I think it is important to share it. At times I feel like it is a nightmare from which I am going to wake up, but I know it is not,” he wrote. “No one who has access to a vaccine should die from COVID 19.”
With three COVID-19 vaccines now available in the U.S., just over 60% of those age 12 and above have been fully vaccinated, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccines can significantly reduce the chances of getting symptomatic COVID-19 infections and are particularly good at preventing severe COVID-19 symptoms, the need for hospitalization, and death. And due to lagging interest in the shots, states have been forced to dispose of expired doses rather than administering them to people who could use them. In July, 80,000 doses in Arkansas were left to expire, for instance. Earlier this month, Alabama disposed of 65,000 expired doses, NPR reports.
Meanwhile, as Ramirez notes, there is considerably less access to COVID-19 vaccines in other countries. While higher-income countries such as the U.S., U.K., Canada, and China have achieved about 60% to 70% vaccination rates (according to estimates from Reuters), rates in middle- and lower-income countries are lagging, largely due to vaccine availability. Many countries in Africa have less than 20% and even 10% of their population vaccinated. Venezuela is only at around 8.2%. As these rates lag, coronavirus variants that are more transmissible and dangerous than the original strain continue to spread, including the delta variant that’s now dominant in the U.S., the gamma variant in Brazil, and the beta variant in South Africa.
Ramirez also shared a recent interview about the virus and the vaccines that he did with Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to the president. “I hope this interview can serve as a starting point for a conversation with the people in your life who are hesitant about getting vaccinated,” he wrote. “Don’t do it for yourself. Do it to protect those who are vulnerable, those with immune deficiencies, and all others who can get very sick if infected… To get a vaccine is an act of compassion.”