When It’s OK To Ask Someone If They’re Vaccinated (and How to Do It)

When It’s OK To Ask Someone If They’re Vaccinated (and How to Do It)
Photo: Yaw Niel, Shutterstock

Even though COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations are declining across the U.S., some grey area and potential danger remains. A high share of adults remain hesitant or outright opposed to vaccination. The lingering possibility of infection remains strong for those who haven’t received their jabs.

Any way you slice it, there’s a fair amount of grey area concerning when to wear masks, whether by the CDC’s guidelines or those set by independent businesses. I, for example, continue to mask in any petrol station I enter, even though I technically don’t have to, according to both the CDC and my local shop’s rules. For me, it’s about making others feel safe, largely because nobody has any idea whether I’m immunised (outside of some hypothetical vaccine passport issued by the government).

As the pandemic continues to wane, you might find yourself with an unmasked person, curious about whether they’ve been vaccinated or if they just care less than you about safety. Here’s how you might consider it appropriate to ask about someone’s vaccination status, and when it’s definitely not a good idea to wade so deep into another’s personal territory.

How to ask someone if they’ve been vaccinated

If it’s your home, then by all means

If someone is coming over to your place for the first time since the world was knocked off its axis by COVID, then you should feel comfortable to ask about their vaccine status. It’s your personal space, after all, and if you’re doing something indoors, unmasked, it only makes sense that you’d inquire about it.

If you’re caring for someone who’s immunocompromised

If you’re looking out for someone who’s still technically at risk, despite their vaccination, you can absolutely inquire about another person’s vaccination status. For example, if you’re entertaining guests at a bowling alley and your grandma is going to be there, you might want to inquire whether guests have been immunised. Likewise if you have unvaccinated kids.

Lead with your own vaccination status

Whether people have been immunised is a question on many people’s minds — not just yours. A good way to get a clear answer from someone is to first note that you’re fully vaccinated, or between doses. Sharing your own status first shows that you understand it’s incumbent upon you to protect yourself, and it’s also less confrontational than blurting out “are you vaccinated?” to someone with whom you’re not really that close.

Let’s say you’re in a gathering outdoors and want to gauge how people feel about taking it indoors. If you mention to a group that you’re fully-vaccinated, it’s likely that other people will follow suit.

It’s definitely not ok to ask why someone’s still wearing a mask

Even though we’re slowly lurching out of the pandemic and masks are basically optional, try to understand why some people continue to wear them. For one, the immunocompromised might continue to wear masks for the foreseeable future, largely because we’re unlikely to reach herd immunity and highly contagious variants continue to drive the majority of infections.

Building on that, there are a lot of variables at play that you can’t really decipher without knowing someone’s situation. Someone could still insist on masking because they have unvaccinated children at home. They could have a psychological aversion to taking off the mask; some people have enjoyed the anonymity afforded to them by a facial covering, many of whom are women who enjoy not being told to smile more often.

We’ve gone from masking as a means to protect others, to masking as a means for protecting ourselves, and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s merely an indication that some people will continue to wear masks, despite receiving their vaccines, because of personal circumstances or preference.

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