August 10, 2021

How to Ask Party Guests If They’re Vaccinated Against COVID-19

Difficult times sometimes require difficult questions

Smiling, unmasked guests walking into an outdoor party area.

You’re putting together invitations for a grand celebration. The traditional RSVP request will be included, of course, but you may be thinking of asking your guests about more than whether they plan to attend.

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You may want to know if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Is that a fair question? And what’s the proper etiquette for telling Uncle Joe or your best friend that they’re not welcome at your shindig if they haven’t been on the receiving end of a COVID-19 shot?

It’s a discussion that could explode into an emotional anger bomb. Psychologist Chivonna Childs, PhD, has some tips to defuse the situation.

Don’t judge someone’s vaccination decision

People are free to make their own choices. You made yours regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. Someone else, however, may take a different approach … and that’s their right, says Dr. Childs.

“At the end of the day, we take our own path,” Dr. Childs explains. “People don’t want to be judged on their choice.”

Avoid confrontation

It’s your right to set the ground rules for your own event – but don’t be a jerk about it. “Think about how you say something,” says Dr. Childs. “Use your words in a kind and respectful manner. Be a human being.”

You may get questions as to why you decided to require a vaccination to score a party hat. If you want to have that conversation, Dr. Childs suggests offering your viewpoint without questioning someone else’s choice.

For instance, share your concerns about potentially exposing at-risk relatives to COVID-19 or the growth of emerging coronavirus variants such as the more contagious delta variant.

“Tell your story and explain why it is important to you,” says Dr. Childs. “Don’t use it as an opportunity to tell someone why they’re wrong. There’s no reason to become the Lord of Vaccination.”

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Stand behind your request

Prior to 2020, the idea of inquiring about someone’s vaccination status seems unimaginable. It might feel odd to make a party invitation contingent on a person’s handling of that healthcare decision.

But know that you’re not alone in asking the question. Online invitation companies report many party throwers requesting vaccination information or proof of a negative COVID-19 test from guests as part of the invitation process.

“As the person doing the party, you get to choose,” says Dr. Childs. “That’s the power you have. Decide the rules and then stand by them.”

Looking for ideas on how to safely celebrate? See what an infectious disease expert recommends for a wedding or graduation party. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has tips for organizing large gatherings.

CDC guidance says that if you are fully vaccinated, you can resume many of the activities you did before the pandemic. However, given the emergence of the delta variant, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of high transmission.

It is also recommended that fully vaccinated individuals wear a mask indoors if they have a weakened immune system or are at increased risk for severe disease given age or a medical condition. The same applies if you live with someone who is at increased risk.

For outdoor events, the CDC recommends wearing masks in crowded settings when you may be in close contact with others – particularly in areas with higher numbers of cases. Social distancing is advised.

Masking also may be required by local laws, rules or guidance.

You are considered “fully vaccinated” two weeks after receiving a single-dose coronavirus vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) or the second dose of a two-dose vaccine series (Pfizer and Moderna).

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The World Health Organization (WHO), however, is advising that even vaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing given the continued global spread of the virus.

CDC guidance for unvaccinated people

Recommendations for those who have not gotten a vaccine don’t exactly scream “It’s time to party.” If you’re unvaccinated, you are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and advised to:

  • Wear a mask in indoor public places.
  • Stay 6 feet away from others.
  • Avoids crowds like those found in restaurants and bars.

How to deal with hurt feelings for the uninvited

Will everyone gleefully accept your vaccination question and potentially being blocked from attending the party? Probably not… and some may be pretty vocal about expressing their displeasure.

A few may even threaten to sever their relationship with you: If I can’t come to the wedding because of a stupid shot, we’re through!

Take a deep breath, says Dr. Childs, and be assertive but not aggressive in your response. Emphasize that the situation involving COVID-19 is temporary (we hope) and that you look forward to seeing them in the future.

There’s no reason to argue. You’re planning a party, not getting ready to try out for the debate team.

Finally, remember this bit of advice if someone pushes back about their invitation: “‘No’ is a complete answer,” says Dr. Childs. “You don’t have to say more and you don’t have to defend it.”

Besides, you have a party to enjoy.

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