Story at a glance

  • A British bodybuilder, John Eyers, died of COVID-19 after refusing to take the vaccine.
  • His friends and family are now reflecting on Eyers’ life and what caused his vaccine hesitancy.
  • Eyers spent four weeks in the hospital and died at the age of 42.

A 42-year-old British bodybuilder died from COVID-19 after he refused to get the vaccine and now his family is reflecting on what led up to his fateful death.

John Eyers led an eventful life, as a teen he was champion pole-vaulter and played hockey, then grew up to compete in bodybuilding competitions, triathlons and mountain climbing, his twin sister Jenny McCann told The Guardian.

McCann described her brother as gregarious and fun loving, but said he expressed concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine and that he didn’t want to be treated as a guinea pig. “John started saying really crazy things that didn’t make sense, about how people were only getting the vaccine for free McDonald’s, and there was formaldehyde in it.”

However, like many people around the world, Eyers struggled with the lockdowns that came with the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Guardian, Eyers hated not being able to go to the gym, go climbing or see his friends. He lived alone at the time, having broken up with his girlfriend over Christmas.


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McCann told The Guardian that, “I was really worried about him. He was in a bad place. I had to call him every day to make sure he was OK.”

One of Eyers’ best friends, Jonathan Cohen, said the frustrations Eyers felt about the lockdown and restrictions fueled his skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine. Eyers began to think authorities were overstating the risk of the virus, as nobody in his neighboring community had contracted it. 

Tom Stafford, a psychology lecturer at the University of Sheffield, told The Guardian that, “there is a huge asymmetry with risk. If you can get away with things that are low probability, you don’t know how dangerous they are until it’s too late.” 

It’s like driving without a seatbelt, which Stafford said may not seem important on a regular basis but the one time an accident occurs, it could turn deadly.

Eyers eventually tested positive for COVID-19 and ended up in the hospital. He required a ventilator and after battling the virus for nearly a month, he died. 

According to McCann, her brother regretted not getting the vaccine while he was in the hospital, telling staff, “‘Why didn’t I get vaccinated? Why didn’t I do it? Why didn’t I listen?’”

After Eyers’ death, McCann tweeted a series of messages sharing her brother’s story hoping it would encourage people to get vaccinated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 percent of the U.S. has been fully vaccinated. According to the U.K. government, where Eyers resided, 88 percent of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 


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Published on Nov 30, 2021