British Columbia

B.C. man who lost his unvaccinated sister to COVID-19 urges others not to make same potentially fatal choice

Cory Ronningen's 44-year-old sister Kelly died from virus complications on Aug. 30 in Victoria, B.C. The single mom chose not to be immunized and her brother is speaking out to encourage others to get their shots.

Cory Ronningen's 44-year-old sister chose not to get the vaccine despite having underlying health conditions.

Cory Ronningen’s sister died of COVID-19 after choosing not to get immunized against the virus. Despite grieving, he is speaking out in hopes of encouraging more people to get vaccinated. (CBC NEWS)

The last time Cory Ronningen spoke to his sister Kelly, it was through text message after she had been admitted to intensive care following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

He told her that when she got out of Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, B.C., he was going to give her a hard time about not being vaccinated.

He never got that chance.

Kelly Ronnigen, 44, died on Aug. 30 due to complications from the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Cory says he and other family members encouraged his sister, who was a single mom living in Duncan, B.C., to get immunized, but that she had decided against it despite having underlying health conditions.

"She would just dismiss it," said Cory, speaking to CBC Radio.

He said his sister seemed scared of the vaccine and, on more than one occasion, referenced anti-vaccination conspiracy theories to him to support her choice.

Now, the family is reeling from the loss of their loved one and Cory is speaking out to encourage others to get vaccinated to avoid the same fatal fate.

He says no one wants to experience what he has. Cory and his family couldn't be at Kelly's side as she was dying and had to watch her take her final breaths from the other side of a window into her ICU room. 

"It's a relatively shocking and disturbing thing to witness and to have to go through," he said.

And mixed with sadness about the death of his sister, is anger: anger at her choice, and anger at people spreading misinformation about the vaccine that may have scared her away from it.

"It's maddening to me," he said, adding that while people are entitled to their opinions, in this case, they can have fatal consequences. 

Now, Cory is speaking out about what happened to his family in hopes it does not happen to others.

In hindsight, he thinks Kelly would want him to.

"She would want people not to make the same mistake she did."

With files from The Early Edition