Nearly two-thirds of vaccinated Americans say they will ban unvaccinated family members from holiday gatherings this year. A survey of 2,000 U.S. residents found that two in three respondents feel they cannot go home for the holidays without first getting vaccinated.
Of the 65 percent of respondents who are vaccinated, nearly six in 10 (58 percent) reported cutting off family members who refuse to get the vaccine, while 63 percent feel that they are not comfortable inviting unvaccinated relatives to their gatherings.
Furthermore, 72 percent of vaccinated respondents don’t think they can ever get some of their family members to understand the importance of getting vaccines, while 14 percent don’t plan on getting vaccinated themselves.
There are legitimate reasons why people are not keen on getting vaccinated. When asked, some respondents said they “don’t trust the vaccine is safe,” while some said they are concerned about the side effects. There were also some who believe that the vaccine was “rushed” and that people who are vaccinated are still getting sick.
Those who are unvaccinated also stopped communicating with family members who don’t understand why they refuse to get vaccinated, and these strained family dynamics may explain why 22 percent of unvaccinated respondents have been excluded from family gatherings, including the holidays.
Some 38 percent of unvaccinated individuals still remain in contact with their vaccinated family members, and 58 percent of the same group said that they are still welcome at family get-togethers. (Related: Want to travel for the holidays? You should get vaccinated, says Fauci.)
Separation between politics and personal life
Author and political commentator Andrew Sullivan said that even those who do make it to the dining table around the holidays will find themselves in divisive debates about politics in the country. He also said that the “separation between politics and life is what we’re losing, and it is a terrible thing to lose.”
Sullivan also explained how the Americans’ inability to set their differences aside is a symptom of a larger illness that saw its peak during the Capitol riot back in January.
“This country came to a point where we have violence in the usual peaceful transfer of power. That is a huge warning to how unstable our system can be if we remain rivals in a system that is supposed to be designed for reasonable citizens,” he said.
The same study suggests that the vaccine also influenced workforce dynamics the same way it did family dynamics, as 43 percent of unvaccinated respondents confess they’re “worried” about potentially losing their jobs and benefits, or that they may have to pay for higher health insurance premiums because they’re unvaccinated.
These concerns come after President Joe Biden’s federal mandate required Americans working at companies with over 100 employees to get their vaccine by January 4 or go for COVID testing every week.
Regardless of their vaccination status, 53 percent of the respondents agree that the politicization of the vaccines has divided their families, with four in five (79 percent) believing politics should not play a role in science or medicine.
Hosting unvaccinated friends and family
The risk of celebrating with unvaccinated loved ones is just not worth it for some. But for those who want to gather a group with mixed vaccination status, experts say that there are ways to be cautiously safe.
Dr. Juan C. Salazar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and physician-in-chief of Connecticut Children’s in Hartford, Connecticut, said that families can still get together, but each family will need to ask the crucial question: “What is the likelihood that we will get very sick from COVID-19?”
For those who are uncertain how to proceed, Daniel L. Shapiro, an associate professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, suggested calling unvaccinated family members and soliciting their ideas on how to gather safely. Ask how to make sure everyone feels safe and comfortable. For instance, get mandatory testing right before dinner, or gather outside instead of inside someone’s home.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking a coronavirus test ahead of the holiday celebrations can reduce the risk of spreading the virus – especially if there are people from multiple households from different parts of the country.
Rapid antigen tests, for instance, can indicate within minutes whether or not someone is contagious with COVID-19. Taking the test just before entering someone’s home is ideal as the results only reflect whether or not you are carrying a virus at that moment.
For those who balk at the idea, they can be reminded that an infected person can easily spread the virus to other people even if they don’t have symptoms.
Eleanor Murray, an epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health said: “If a rapid test says you’re positive, then that is a very reliable indication that you are infected and infectious. You should not be around other people.”