Tips on Attending Thanksgiving with Vaccinated, Unvaccinated Family Members 

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

Tips on Attending Thanksgiving with Vaccinated, Unvaccinated Family Members 
Holiday get-togethers with family are generally chockful of joy and warmth, but they may also bring a certain level of anxiety in 2021 as the COVID-19 climate evolves. Family gatherings on Thanksgiving will see an increase this year compared to 2020 for multiple reasons. There are fewer mandated restrictions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated guidance and the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines has helped decrease cases and hospitalizations. But with the rollout of the vaccines has come a polarizing reaction across the country. If you’re worried about mingling with a mix of family members who are fully vaccinated, have received just one dose of the vaccine or choose not to be vaccinated at all – but you feel like missing the event altogether is unavoidable – consider the following tips and precautions.

General physical precautions

The most effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated yourself before the holiday season, per the CDC. Have you have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine and still feel a little trepidatious about physically navigating a Thanksgiving outing with family this year?  First off, you should communicate expectations and behavior early in the event, so everyone is clear on the use of masks, distance, and other safety measures. Most Thanksgiving gatherings in Michigan will undoubtedly take place indoors, inside the homes of family members, which makes wearing a mask for at least portions of the social event advisable if you know you will be near unvaccinated people. Well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth are also recommended if you yourself are vaccinated but are immunocompromised, and if the building you will be celebrating in is slightly small, cramped and poorly ventilated. Additionally, the CDC recommends masks this year to protect your younger family members who are not yet eligible for vaccination. As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the use of the Pfizer COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old – and the CDC recommends its use – many children will have the opportunity to have at least one vaccine by Thanksgiving this year. If you feel sick leading up to Thanksgiving, you should sit this event out, as disheartening as that sounds. The CDC advises people with flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms to skip hosting or attending holiday gatherings in 2021. Maybe you can make your presence felt virtually in this case, by hanging out at the event via Zoom, Skype or Microsoft Teams. Finally, if you have been around unvaccinated family members, you should take a COVID-19 test after the holiday.

Social tips

The last thing any of us want to experience during the holidays is tension. If the topic of the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccination status comes up and you want to lighten the conversation, try politely changing the subject. If that doesn’t work, these pointers are recommended by communication experts via WebMD/Medscape, when it comes to speaking to a family member who is hesitant or unwilling to get the vaccine:
  • Emphasizing the trends of more people getting vaccinated
  • Focusing on everyone’s freedom of choice
  • Listening to concerns without judgment
  • Offering credible information
  • Correcting myths when necessary
  • Helping them fit vaccination into their "world view."
For more recent news and information regarding the COVID-19, including frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 booster shot, visit More:
Photo credit: Getty Images

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