PRAGUE — The story of an unvaccinated Czech folk singer who died after she celebrated catching the coronavirus has gripped the nation after her son said her death should serve as a warning to those resisting vaccination.
Soon after the singer, Hana Horka, 57, died on Sunday, her bereaved son, Jak Rek, poured his heart out on social media and to Czech news outlets — offering both a plea for people to be vaccinated and a warning against taking the virus lightly.
Despite what the son described as her family’s strong encouragement, Ms. Horka refused to get vaccinated and rejoiced once her husband and her son, both vaccinated, contracted Covid over the Christmas holiday.
Instead of isolating herself, she deliberately exposed herself to the virus, her son said. She was ill for a couple of days but then appeared to be recovering.
In a Facebook post, she celebrated her apparent recovery and naturally acquired immunity, saying she looked forward to “sauna, swimming, cultural life” — all denied to her under virus regulations because of her refusal to be vaccinated, but potentially available once she could present proof of recovery from infection.
Two days later, her condition swiftly declined and she died.
The only warning the family had that something was wrong, her son said, was her complaining about an aching back.
“We rubbed it with an ointment, and she went to rest for a little while,” he told the Czech news media, adding that she had died within minutes. “This is how fast it was.”
Family members have said they consider her death to have been from the virus, though official autopsy results have yet to be published.
Mr. Rek, 23, took to social media, blaming those who spread lies about vaccines for his mother’s death.
“You took away my mom, who based her arguments on your convictions,” he said, directing his comments to the opponents of vaccination. “I despise you.”
Vaccine skepticism runs deep across Central and Eastern Europe and only 63 percent of Czechs are fully vaccinated, far lower than most Western European nations, according to government figures collated by Our World in Data. With some 30,000 new infections reported Wednesday, the country is now recording more cases than anytime in the pandemic.
Earlier this month, thousands of people demonstrated in Prague and other cities against its possible introduction of vaccine mandates. In the face of public pressure, the government said on Wednesday that it would cancel the plans for mandatory vaccination for some segments of society.
As Ms. Horka’s story gained international attention, her son said he was not going to make any further comments. But he told reporters that he hoped his personal experience might shake the public.
“People are not interested in numbers and graphs,” he said. “Unless there is a legitimate reason not to get vaccinated, in health-related matters, I believe we can’t pretend it is a question of individual responsibility.”