“Our young adult daughter is not vaccinated. Should we invite her to Thanksgiving?”
Two parents posed this question to me during a recent Zoom meeting. They went on to say how one of them was immunocompromised and at risk. Furthermore, their son and daughter-in-law were nervous about sharing the holiday with the sister as their young child was unvaccinated. The parents were worried about alienating their daughter if they did not invite her, yet wanted to ensure the safety of everyone.
As families prepare to host indoor holiday events, risk assessment is likely a conversation in many homes. Hosting family events in the past came with worries about a crazy uncle or someone who might drink too much. Now COVID-19 immunization status can be divisive and challenging, posing a genuine concern and dilemma. I sense a Deja vu quality to this 2021 invitee list quandary. Last fall, holiday gatherings were about who quarantined similarly. Now the conversation is vaccinated versus unvaccinated invitees.
There are no easy answers to this new reality, and specific options may still present some risk, but I will share my thoughts as a psychologist who works with parents.
- It is reasonable that the host establishes the guidelines for invitees.
- The host should consider the most risk-averse person on the invite list. In the case I described above, the brother’s concerns about the exposure of his young child to this virus should be honored.
- An unvaccinated invitee may consider wearing a mask.
- The unvaccinated person may choose to quarantine ten days before the event.
- Since COVID-19 tests are now readily available, the unvaccinated invitee may choose this option on the day of the celebration.
This past summer, I attended a memorial for my mother. An unvaccinated family member took the initiative to wear a mask, as did some of my nephews with small children at home. These actions enabled our family to share a safe and meaningful time. Masks remain an option for all of us, while COVID-19 continues to be a concern. Admittedly, with a Thanksgiving tradition of stuffing not only the turkey, wearing a mask is undoubtedly challenging.
What if invitees are not comfortable with an unvaccinated participant, masked, quarantined, or COVID tested? In this case, parents could arrange for a different holiday gathering for the unvaccinated member at home, outside, or at a restaurant. COVID-19 and the various responses to the vaccine pose unique challenges. It is essential to appreciate that specific accommodations or requests when gathering with family members, or others are not a rejection of either the person or their position on the pandemic.
This virus will not always be here, and holidays come and go, but families are forever.