Politics Rep.-Elect Julia Letlow Urges Others to Get COVID Vaccine After Husband’s Death: 'Use My Story' Letlow won a special election last week to replace her late husband Luke Letlow in the House of Representatives after he died from COVID-19 in December By Sean Neumann Sean Neumann Sean Neumann is a journalist from Chicago, Ill. People Editorial Guidelines Published on March 29, 2021 11:53 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Rep.-elect Julia Letlow. Photo: CBS The newest member of Congress is urging Americans to heed her family's story and get vaccinated for COVID-19. "Look at my family. Use my story," Rep.-elect Julia Letlow told CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday. Letlow, a Republican, was elected to represent Louisiana's 5th district last week, replacing her late husband, Luke Letlow, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Her husband Luke died in December from COVID-19 complications, weeks before he was set to be sworn into office himself. He was 41. "It's definitely going to inform my work," she told CBS. While the U.S. rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines has been ahead of schedule, according to President Joe Biden's administration, it's still a matter of convincing many Americans to take the vaccination. Nearly half of Republican men — 49% — said they didn't plan to take a vaccination, according to a PBS poll earlier this month. Letlow is imploring everyone to listen to her family's story and take a COVID-19 vaccine. "I'm a huge proponent of the vaccine," the incoming Congresswoman said. "It has life-saving capabilities and I want to encourage anybody out there who's eligible to go ahead and get that vaccine. It's so important." Louisiana is one of a growing number of states who opened up vaccine eligibility Monday to anyone 16 years and older. A New York Times tracker shows that in Louisiana at least 10,087 people have died from COVID-19 and 443,069 people have contracted the virus. Nationwide, at least 548,867 people have died, while more than 30.2 million have contracted the illness. "I want to be an advocate and a voice," Letlow said Sunday. Julia Letlow. Brett Duke/AP/Shutterstock Luke Letlow. Luke Letlow/Facebook After winning the special runoff election last week, the representative-elect vowed to "carry the torch" of her husband's work. "This is an incredible moment and it is truly hard to put into words," Letlow said after winning the race. "What was born out of the terrible tragedy of losing my husband, Luke, has become my mission in his honor to carry the torch and serve the good people of Louisiana's 5th district." The soon-to-be lawmaker added that "a simple thank you doesn't fully encapsulate the depth of my gratitude." Widow Wins Race to Serve Husband's Term in Congress After He Died of COVID On Sunday, Letlow explained she's determined to pass legislation expanding broadband access to rural parts of the country—something she said would boost both access to healthcare education and help improve kids' schooling. It's also something Biden, 78, promised to improve as president during the 2020 campaign. Letlow said both Biden and Donald Trump, who endorsed her in the race, called to congratulate her after she won her late husband's former House seat. "They were both so gracious," she said. "President Biden shared with me that he understood the pain that I was walking through and that it will get better. And I know it will." As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.