Why unvaccinated family members shouldn’t be invited to the holiday dinner table

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So, I have a little holiday conundrum.

Every year, we have a nice holiday dinner with my extended family, and the same 12 people are there every year. We’ve watched us all grow from a group of engaged people to a group of married people to a group of parents. It’s a really nice chance to come together and touch base and feel like family together. But this year’s gathering is already proving to be way more complicated than ever before.

Maybe you’re having the same problem.

“What are we to do this holiday season about unvaccinated family members?” wonders Toure. “Do we have to invite them? Isn’t family the people who cannot turn you away?” (Photo: Adobe Stock)

You see, one of our long-term members, someone I love immensely — someone who I think of when I think of family, and it wouldn’t be the holidays without them — this person has refused … to take the vaccine. Not only that, they think that COVID-19 is a hoax. The government is just trying to control us, they say; it’s all a lie.

I cannot.

Every family’s got at least one.

The question is: What are we going to do? Do we invite this person, or no? I can’t even insist that they get tested 24 hours before arriving because they reject the entire existence of COVID. It hurts me to my heart to think about the holidays without them, but this situation is turning me prematurely gray.

I asked the other people who are coming to the family event. Six, a little more than half, said they would be uncomfortable with a vaccine refuser there. But the real kicker is this: A small number of people said that if the refuser is at dinner, then they will not be joining.

And I don’t blame them.

I think this situation — which I know many others are going through in their lives — exposes some of the frustration the vaccinated are feeling toward the unvaccinated. We’ve made a very small sacrifice on behalf of the greater good. We all want to get back to normal, as far as social events and the economy, but that can’t happen as long as a relatively large number of people remain unvaccinated. And many of us don’t even hear the unvaccinated giving us valid, honest or reality-based arguments as to why they’re not vaccinated.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Of course, the unvaccinated are also frustrated. My body, my choice, they say, and, if you’re vaccinated then what do you care what I do? These arguments are easily toppled. The case of a highly-contagious homicidal virus does not truly fall into the my-body-my-choice category any more than drinking a lot of alcohol just before driving does, yet here we are.

Can you feel me pulling my hair out?

So, what are we to do this holiday season about unvaccinated family members? Do we have to invite them? Isn’t family the people who cannot turn you away? Yes, but our duty to family does not extend to putting our health and other family members’ health at risk. And even if you don’t have COVID-19, you are really challenging the spirit of our holiday event. If there’s lots of talk about what to do with the unvaccinated family member, then you know we’re going to talk about it when you show up.

A large group of people sitting around together for hours and talking and drinking alcohol does not lead to avoiding controversial subjects, especially when they’re dominating our world. You and your refusal to vaccinate is going to screw up the vibe. And if one vaccinated person won’t come because there will be an unvaccinated person, then that — to me — means the unvaccinated person can’t come. Period, end of story. The vaccinated, who are doing their part to help us fight this thing, cannot be asked to compromise for those who are doing nothing.

Black woman mask COVID
Close-up of three African American girls wearing surgical masks. 3 young women sitting together using coronavirus protection measures after or during quarantine. (Credit: Adobe Stock)

My thing is this: If you don’t want to take the vaccine, then OK, whatever, but what else are you going to do to help prevent the spread and keep people safe? Are you going to stay home? Like, all the time? Because it can’t be you refuse the vaccine, and you’re out and about hanging out in my living room like a walking petri dish, tacitly saying, The whole world is wrong, the entire global medical community is wrong, it’s not safe, and even though the vaccine has been out for months, and millions have taken it, I still haven’t had time to do enough of my own research. I hope you read that in the whiny tone in which it was written. If you aren’t sure that it’s safe, then you need to be in the house, staying away from Covid and other people and doing your homework to find out if it’s safe.

Most people agree with me. A recent poll found more than half of vaccinated respondents said they’re uncomfortable spending the holidays with an unvaccinated family member. So, I want you to take a deep breath, find your power, and feel emboldened, feel righteous, feel good about saying no Uncle Kyrie, no Aunt Mabel, no to cousin whoever-whoever, “I’m sorry, but you can’t come to my house for the holidays this year. I love you, but you’re not vaccinated, and I don’t feel comfortable” — those are magic words — “having unvaccinated people around me and my family like that because we like breathing and not being sick and stuff.”

The conversation may not be easy — especially if its with those who don’t even believe that Covid is real — but trust me, you’re doing the right thing.


Touré is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books.

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