• Resolving Problems

My Friend Won’t Get Vaccinated: Can I Save The Friendship?

Published: August 22, 2021 | Last Updated: August 25, 2021 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading

Whether it’s a friend or a relative, most of us know someone who won’t get vaccinated. And having different attitudes towards vaccinations or masking during COVID-19 is posing unexpected challenges to many friendships.

A woman recently wrote:

I regularly play cards with a group of women. We’ve all been vaccinated but one woman is a holdout who won’t get vaccinated. I wear a mask; she doesn’t. I don’t feel comfortable sitting at the same table as her in the cardroom at our club. What can I do? No one else has mentioned it to her.

Vaccination status as a divider

This woman’s awkward situation is actually quite common. Two celebrities recently reported their own dilemmas and decisions related to vaccinations:  

Jennifer Aniston announced that she had decided to cut ties with people who either refused vaccines or were unwilling to disclose their vaccination status.

Pete Parada, a drummer for the band “Offspring” was ousted from the band after he refused to get vaccinated. In this case, he said he did so because of his medical history. 

New Axios-Harris Poll looks at “personal vaccine mandates”

Millenials and Gen Zers are the most likely generations to cut off relationships with people who disagree with them over vaccine policies.

The pollsters hypothesize that Millenials may feel most strongly because they are the ones most likely to have unvaccinated kids. Some 41% of Millennials said they would require proof before hosting an event compared to 36% in older generations.

“It’s the new cultural dividing line,” commented John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll. “It’s kind of like the Delta variant is moving in real-time and people are like ‘Should I be doing the wedding this fall?’”

Data from the Axios-Harris survey:


What to do what a friend won’t get vaccinated

I reflected on this question and posed it to members of The Friendship Blog Connection Facebook page.

Based on my own thoughts and comments crowdsourced from the group, here are some tips for handling what is admittedly a difficult situation:

  • Open a dialogue. Try to find out why your friend has decided not to get vaccinated. Offer facts and suggest resources but avoid being dismissive and judgmental. When you hear their reasoning, it may or may not make more sense to you than before.
  • Explain why you feel vulnerable when among unvaccinated people. For example, you might explain why you feel at risk because of age, underlying medical conditions, or situational factors. Make it personal.
  • If the dilemma arises in a group, like that in the card game described above, raise your concerns to the group as a whole rather than going behind someone’s back. You may discover that you aren’t the only one who feels the way you do. This is a situation where peer pressure may have some impact on the holdout.
  • Recognize that in the end, whether their rationale seems valid or not, you have no control over someone else’s decisions, only your own. You have to set boundaries for yourself and do what feels right for you—even though it might mean losing a friend or group of friends.
  • Act politely and civilly. Leave the door open for the future. Although you disagree now, circumstances may change and allow you to resurrect the relationship.

Many sides to the coin

On Facebook, like in the real world, people offered a diversity of opinions. A few samples (edited lightly for clarity/brevity):

Friendship trumps vaccine status

Any person who would disassociate from another due to their personal medical choices is not a friend. Likewise, any person who would coerce another into doing something with their body that they do not want to do is not being a true friend.

Had my first injection in February and couldn’t wait to get the second one in May. But I have unvaccinated friends and won’t be shunning them.

It’s about my health and the health of others

Choosing not to vaccinate is a choice but choices have consequences. I also have a choice to protect myself and those around me. So I can choose to keep my distance from that person until such time as they do, or until there is no more risk to myself or others. It’s the same with not being permitted into public places without vaccination. It’s about public safety. 

I support those who want to cut ties with unvaccinated friends. It is their decision, just as it is the unvaccinateds’ decision to not get the vaccine.

It’s complicated

My daughter is deathly allergic to something in the vaccine. Some of us simply cannot take the vaccine.

Our family gatherings will be awkward. My sister-in-law refuses to vaccinate her two teen kids 

I have been fully vaccinated since May. I hesitated to get the vaccine because I feared I would be regarded as a sellout because of past mistreatment of my community by the government and the medical establishment. In the end, I decided that I was sick of living in isolation so I got the vaccine. I haven’t cut anyone off but I do keep a distance from all unvaccinated people.

There are plenty of vaccinated people spreading the virus because they never wear masks! They think it’s perfectly acceptable to parade around maskless because they have been vaccinated and that is not true. Yeah, they may not die but they are spreading COVID and think they are safe. I still wear the mask indoors unless I am eating in a restaurant. We must use our common sense to keep ourselves and others safe.

A dilemma with no easy answers

Unfortunately, public health measures like vaccinations and masking can be quite polarizing. However, this isn’t a brand-new phenomenon. Other issues, like religion and politics, have long been divisive among friends and family. 

One salient difference: This time the consequences of another individual’s decisions can have an impact on the health and safety of others. 

“The difference could be life and death or long-term disability,” commented one member.

Have you encountered a difference of opinion with a friend or family member? 

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Comments (2)

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  1. Sandra says:

    This is a hot button issue — thanks so much for covering it here. I agree with the person in the above comments who said that she feels she has a right to protect herself and her family. I tend to avoid people who haven’t been vaccinated, though I wouldn’t necessarily end my friendship with them. Luckily, the folks I hang with are all proactive, and they all got vaccinated early on.

    The scary thing is, I’m seeing a lot of breakthrough infections in my area. Several of my neighbors now have Covid, and they are vaccinated. They all picked it up from someone who WASN’T vaccinated. A cautionary tale.
    We all have a right to live our lives as we see fit. That might mean avoiding people who are posing any kind of danger to us.

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