The COVID-19 pandemic has rewritten the rules of social etiquette. As the vaccine has created opportunities to lift many of the social restrictions that we’ve all become accustomed to, you may start encountering yet another new situation that’s tricky to navigate: How do you politely ask a friend, relative, or coworker if they are vaccinated? The answer will depend on the specific relationship you have with the person you’re asking. However, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind.
Consider Why You’re Asking About Vaccination Status
It’s important to assess your motivation for asking a friend if they’ve been vaccinated—are you aiming to plan a safe interaction with your friend, or are you just curious? If the goal is to facilitate a safe social gathering, then it’s okay to be upfront and direct. It’s also useful to disclose your own vaccination status to help make the conversation more approachable for the other party. For example, you might simply say “I’m fully vaccinated, but I’m still being extra cautious. Are you vaccinated yet? If not, let’s keep our meet-up socially distanced outdoors.”
Avoid Placing Blame and Giving Lectures
You may find it frustrating to hear that your friends and relatives aren’t yet vaccinated or aren’t planning to get the COVID-19 vaccine at all. However, it’s counterproductive to try and lecture those individuals or cast blame. Remember that some people may not be eligible to receive the vaccine for health reasons, and they may not necessarily feel comfortable sharing that information readily. It’s also likely that any unsolicited advice (especially advice given in front of a group of friends or on social media) will only make your friend feel attacked and steer into their anti-vaccination stance.
Arm Yourself with the Right Information
The topic of the coronavirus vaccine has become a hotly debated subject, so it can be useful to arm yourself with the facts before starting a conversation with a friend or loved one. Again, the goal is not to lecture those who have not gotten the vaccine, but it is helpful to know how to answer some questions they may have.
Isn’t it a HIPAA violation to ask about vaccine status?
HIPAA, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, is intended to protect patients’ sensitive health information. This law exclusively applies to health care professionals and organizations, not private businesses or individuals. Even within health care environments, it is not a HIPAA violation to ask if someone is vaccinated. Moreover, employers can lawfully ask if an employee is vaccinated and require an answer to that question as a condition of employment. Similarly, businesses can turn away customers on the basis that they are not vaccinated, and it is not a violation of any law for businesses to ask about vaccination status as a condition of entry.
Is it safe to not wear a mask in public if you’re vaccinated?
Many states have dropped mask mandates and other social distancing requirements as vaccine thresholds have been met. However, you may not yet feel comfortable ditching your mask, and that’s okay. We’ve been conditioned to feel at ease when others are wearing masks, so you might still want to wear a mask when you’re in crowded public spaces or at work, even once you’re fully vaccinated. If you have a friend who is refusing to get the vaccine or simply has not done it yet, gently encourage them to continue wearing a mask in public and set an example by doing so yourself.
Is it safe for unvaccinated kids to socialize with each other?
Parents of young children are in a particularly rough spot when it comes to conversations about vaccines. While kids under 12 aren’t eligible to get vaccinated, their parents are, so you may feel compelled to ask about their vaccination status before scheduling any playdates. The best thing you can do as a parent is set your boundaries and stick to them. For example, playdates may be limited to outdoor environments if all parents involved aren’t fully vaccinated.
COVID-19 has presented tons of challenges that no one was ready to deal with. For ongoing support and accurate information to help you ease back into normal social activities, you can count on MeMD. We can connect you with a board-certified medical provider anytime, anywhere, and you can rely on our website for helpful data to keep you well-informed.