Let’s face it: asking friends and family members about their vaccination status can feel awkward. But you might want answers, even if you’re fully vaxxed and the risk of getting the coronavirus is low. So we called up etiquette expert Myka Meier, the founder of finishing program Beaumont Etiquette and author of “Modern Etiquette Made Easy,” for advice on how to do it. Because we realized that no one at Skimm HQ was exactly nailing it.
In general, why does talking about vaccination status feel different from asking someone whether they've had a flu shot?
“The flu shot, like the COVID-19 vaccine, is not mandatory. The difference is while people are likely to recover from the flu, that’s not always the case with the coronavirus. COVID-19 is a global pandemic that paralyzed and devastated the world, and the only solution to stop it, according to disease experts, is to have herd immunity or get vaccinated. Many places are now requiring a vaccination card to enter a venue or an event. While it’s a personal decision to do something medically to your body, it’s also a personal decision on how to protect your body, which may be avoiding close contact with someone who isn’t vaccinated.”
What are things to keep in mind as we start navigating new social situations and want to remain considerate and respectful?
“If you ask someone if they’re vaccinated, for whatever reason, ask in a compassionate way. That often has to do with the tone of your voice. To ask in an accusatory or judgmental tone is likely to result in someone being defensive."
And when it comes to etiquette around asking about vaccination status, please share your recs for…
Making plans with friends...“Here’s one option that doesn’t force the blunt question ‘Are you vaccinated?’ but still will get an answer: ‘A couple places where I’m looking to make reservations require vaccinations to enter. I’m fully vaccinated, but please do let me know if I should be looking for a place that doesn’t require guests to be vaccinated.’"
Navigating a walk, if you’d rather not have strangers greet your baby in a stroller or your dog on a leash...“Instead of asking every person who stops by to say hello, if I were worried about bumping into unvaccinated people, I would just keep walking my dog or pushing my stroller and quickly wave and say you were in a rush and not stop altogether.”
Planning a wedding (and preferring that guests are vaccinated)...“A note on your wedding website that says, ‘We kindly ask that if you have chosen not to be vaccinated that you wear a mask while inside for the ceremony’ is perfectly appropriate. Also note if a venue requires a vaccination card to enter.”
Dealing with a pre-existing condition that might make you or a loved one more susceptible to COVID-19... “This is a perfectly appropriate reason to ask the question directly. I would never want someone to risk the health of someone high-risk over wondering if it is too blunt to ask. But if you don't want to ask directly, try broaching the topic like this: ‘I’m being extra careful to make sure I don’t bring illness home to my parents who are high-risk. I hope you can understand that, at the moment, I’m only making plans with people who are vaccinated to ensure I can keep everyone I love healthy. Please let me know if we need to reschedule.’”
Suffering from social anxiety...“To each their own. If it’s such a big deal to someone that they can’t get past it or relax, it’s best to ask directly.”
Trying to gather information from your boss and co-workers about vaccination... “Take your HR team’s or boss’ lead and ask privately what is required of you and your colleagues.”
Wondering about the vaccination rules at a salon, restaurant, or hotel...“I think it’s absolutely fine to call ahead and ask a manager what they’re requiring their employees to do so you can make an educated decision.”
Thinking of talking about vaccination status in a dating profile...“If it’s important to you, then you can write something lighthearted but serious, like ‘Need a vax to get my digits!’”
If you want to ask about whether someone’s vaxxed, that’s OK. But make sure you do it politely. That means in a way that’s nonjudgmental, shows compassion, and, in most cases, is direct.
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