Vaccine etiquette: Addressing vaccinations with friends and coworkers

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FILE – In this March 1, 2021, file photo, a patient receives a sticker after receiving a shot of the Moderna COVID-19 at a CVS Pharmacy branch in Los Angeles. From Walt Disney World and Chevron to CVS and a Michigan university, a flurry of private and public employers are requiring workers to get vaccinated after the federal government gave full approval to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – After a year of canceled celebrations and gatherings, people are starting to re-socialize. With the coronavirus still circulating, many people now leaving their homes may be wondering how to deal with people who may a different vaccination status than their own.

Steve Petrow, an opinion columnist at USA Today, spoke with CBS 17 about how to navigate through a currently divisive world of the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Bottom line: focus on the “we” over “me,” Petrow said.

Can you ask if someone is vaccinated?

It’s more about should you ask.

“A lot of us are curious about people’s vaccination status and that’s not a good reason or that’s not a legitimate reason to ask people,” Petrow said.

The etiquette expert said you should ask yourself why you need to know.

“If that information will be actionable, if you’ll be able to do something with that, then it’s OK,” Petrow said.

Needing to know largely depends on the setting.

Special events

When planning special events like a wedding, Petrow said hosts need to decide ahead of time what their rules will be when it comes to testing, vaccinations, or masking. He said guests should be informed of these rules in advance so they understand what they’re getting themselves into.

If you’re having people come together and knowing vaccination status will protect the rest of your guests, it’s a fair question to ask and one that should be answered honestly, Petrow said.

In the case that your event requires vaccination and someone needs to be uninvited, Petrow said it’s important to not make the decision demeaning.

“It should not be made personal. No one should be made to feel bad but it’s important to protect the larger number of people,” he said.

Work settings

Asking your coworker about their vaccination status is another issue. Those questions should be left up to HR or management to ask.

“I think we’ve all seen how prevalent gossip can be in the office around the water cooler,” Petrow said.

Gossip can often evolve so far that information being spread is no longer true. It’s one of the reasons Petrow suggested coworkers refrain from talking about the vaccination status of others.

Any concerns about vaccinations, potential exposure, and overall safety protocols should be addressed with management.

Avoid shunning or using anti-vaxxer labels

It’s important not to burn any bridges. People who are not vaccinated should not be treated as “the other.”

“It’s not helpful to get angry and sort of do this finger wagging and make people feel bad. I don’t know about you, but when people have done that to me on all sorts of things in the past, I just dig my heels in and we don’t get anywhere,” Petrow said.

Some people just need more time to get all the information to make a decision. Others may not be vaccinated due to medical conditions. For example, the CDC has advised people with past allergic reactions to any ingredient in an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine should not get those vaccines.

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