working with anti-vaxxers, my boss is sending me ads for other jobs, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Working with anti-vaxxers when my friend is immunocompromised

I work in a science-based field, yet in our workplace of ~40 people, we have four rabid anti-vaxxers — that I know about; there could be more lying low. I work closely with one on projects, so I can’t avoid her.

My big problem right now is that I have a close friend with whom I went to school who is severely immunocompromised due to treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’s currently hospitalized for Type-A influenza. He’s the type of person herd immunity protects, and now he might die from a preventable disease. And I refuse to visit him right now due to exposure I might have from this germ-ridden, entitled coworker. I want to grab this woman by the throat and shake her fillings out while I call her stupid. Both obviously bad ideas…

How do I handle both the interactions I have to have with, and my rage at, her? And by extension, others of her ilk?

(And the strain he has IS one that was covered by this year’s immunizations. Just to head off the “But the shot doesn’t cover every strain!” crowd.)

I wish I had a good answer to this, but I don’t know that there is one. In a lot of ways, it’s like having to work with anyone whose views and actions you think are responsible for real damage in the world — like people who support children being separated from their families at the border, or people who vote to deny other people basic human rights. Of course, your situation is different because simply being in your coworker’s physical presence is putting someone you love in danger, but I think a lot of the “how do I deal emotionally?” principles are the same.

That said, I do wonder if the physical presence element of this gives you some additional options. Is it possible for you to simply say that you cannot share space with her because of the risk to an immunocompromised loved one? After all, if someone you lived with was severely immunocompromised, that might be the solution you’d have to land on. It’s not a perfect solution for a whole bunch of reasons — work needs, the ways exposure works, etc. — but it might be at least worth thinking about, and even considering it as an option might give you more feeling of control back.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My boss is sending me ads for other jobs

For the second time in six months, my boss has told me about open positions at other companies in my field and said she feels like she would be doing me a professional disservice by not telling me. Should I be concerned that she is gently trying to move me along?

For some background: On paper, I am very overqualified for my position. It is a full-time position that only requires a high school diploma (I have a masters in the field). The work I do, however, is the same kind of work someone with a higher title would do (and that higher title would require the masters that I have). I would love to get the change in title and pay but I’m not in any hurry to leave — I love my job and my coworkers and know I am gaining valuable experience in my field. I have also only been at this position for not quite two years. My resume is already a bit spotty with short-lived jobs so I’m trying to shore it up a bit with some longevity. My biggest concern is whether or not I should be concerned that she is trying to tell me that it’s time for me to be looking elsewhere. Maybe she really is just looking out for my professional development but I can’t help but worry!

Some managers do this because they genuinely want to help people into their next position, without it being a sign that they want to get rid of you; they feel more invested in being a good mentor for you than in retaining you at all costs.

The best thing you can do is to talk to your manager about it! Say something like this: “You’ve sent me job postings a couple of times that you thought were a good fit. I appreciate you looking out for me like that, but I also want to make sure I’m not missing any subtext. I love my job and think I’m getting valuable experience here and have no interest in leaving any time soon, but I’m wondering if you actually think I should be looking around?”

You might hear that she does this for everyone and it doesn’t mean anything, or that she mistakenly thought you would be looking soon and is glad you won’t be, or that she just thought these two roles were so perfect for you that she had to share them, or who knows what. But you should come away from this conversation with a much clearer idea of what she intended (and she’ll probably appreciate the opportunity to clear that up too).

3. My neighbor is a coworker and he offered to violate city ethics rules for me

I work pretty high up in local government and I recently bought a house in the town I work for. It turned out that my next-door neighbor also works for the same city, in the parks department. I didn’t really have much contact with him prior to moving here, but he and his wife have been very kind and welcoming since I’ve moved in.

Now that the weather is getting nicer, I was outside raking leaves and getting the yard cleaned up. Coworker came out and made pleasant neighborly conversation, and then he offered to “bring home a leaf blower from work” so I wouldn’t have to rake by hand. Now, besides being a general work no-no, this is a blatant violation of ethics law; public employees are definitely NOT allowed to take home taxpayer-purchased equipment for their, or anyone else’s, private use.

I was pretty surprised that he would suggest this to me, but I can only assume that he either isn’t aware it’s wrong, or he is aware and doesn’t care. I didn’t want to embarrass him by saying outright, “No, that’s illegal and possibly a fireable offense” when I have to live next door to him. So I just said, “Thanks but my brother is loaning me his leaf blower until I buy one for myself” and changed the subject.

I don’t want him to get in trouble if he gets caught doing this kind of thing, as he seems like a nice guy and may just be unaware. But if he knows it’s wrong and is doing this (or other similar things), am I under an obligation to say anything to my employer about it (and possibly damaging my neighborly relationship)? If not, how do I respond to him if he makes comments like this again?

As an aside – our elected officials receive ethics training (including this particular issue, in the context that elected officials can’t do things like have the road department plow their private driveways) but the employees do not receive the same training. I could suggest that the employees get this training too, but I don’t know if I would have to explain why I’m suggesting it. What do you think?

If he says something like this again, I think it’s worth explaining that you could both get in trouble for violating ethics rules. You can say this kindly, like you’re assuming he didn’t know and would appreciate being told. The benefits of that are (a) he really might not know, and now he will, and (b) it’ll hopefully prevent him from doing anything else that you might be obligated to report (because even if he already knew the rules and just didn’t care, now he’ll realize he’s living next to someone who does).

I don’t think you’re under any obligation to report this single conversation, as long as your city’s rules don’t say otherwise. If you start to see a pattern of ethics issues (his driveway is filled with borrowed city property, he’s joy riding a city tractor down your block, etc.), then you could explain to him that you’re obligated to report that stuff, which would be a neighborly thing to do before just going straight to reporting him.

I do think you could suggest ethics trainings for all employees would be smart, and you wouldn’t need to explain why that occurred to you. It’s actually a good idea for employees to know what ethics rules they’re held to! (That said, that’s no doubt an expensive suggestion, and would likely carry more weight if you were able to explain you’ve had conversations with employees where you had the sense they didn’t realize the details of the rules … which you can probably say without naming names.)

4. I want to unfriend my manager on Facebook

I am early in my career and have made a mistake. When I was first offered my stable government job, my immediate supervisor added me on Facebook. I thought this was strange, but thought, “hey, why not.” This has bitten me in the butt.

While I have formed casual friendships with my colleagues at work, my immediate supervisor has proven herself to be controlling, nasty, micromanaging, and two-faced. She hated the woman who had my position before, and even told me outright that she audio-recorded their supervisory meetings to prove that my predecessor should be fired. I do not trust my supervisor. There is no outward animosity between us, but I absolutely do not want her to be my Facebook “friend.”

I have considered sending an email to all my coworkers, including those I’d prefer to keep, explaining that although I value our office relationship, I have decided to remove coworkers from Facebook. Would this be an appropriate approach to my problem? I have learned my lesson the hard way to never add a supervisor on Facebook.

You don’t even need to make that big a deal of it. You can just quietly unfriend her, and if she ever asks you about it, at that point you can say, “Oh, I decided to separate all my work stuff from Facebook.” But if you think she’s vindictive enough that she’d be offended (and maybe not ask you about it, thus not giving you the chance to say this), then you can severely restrict her access to your stuff (and yours to hers, so you don’t see it).

But if none of those options feel right, then yes, you can proactively let everyone know you’re shrinking your Facebook use to just out-of-work contacts. Personally I think an email is putting too much weight on it, but it’s fine if you want to do it that way! You can also add something about being happy to connect with them once you’re no longer working together, and if you get any pushback you can say a mentor advised you to keep work and personal life separate (or that you’ve read too many articles advising that, or so forth).

5. How should your resume show you worked at a job during school breaks?

I’m a first-year college student. I attend a school a few hours from home, so during the school year I have a work study position on campus. However, during breaks (Thanksgiving, winter, spring, and summer) I’ve been going home and continuing to work at the fast food place I worked at prior to going to college.

How would I write this on my resume? It feels dishonest to write that I’ve been employed since June 2017-present when I’m absent seven out of nine months. But I also don’t want to write it with giant gaps, such as June 2017-August 2018, November 2018, December 2018-January 2019, and so on. How would I write these periods of absence on my resume?

You can write it this way:

Employer name, June 2017 – August 2018, and during school breaks from November 2018 – present

{ 624 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The conversation about letter #1 has seriously derailed in a number of comment threads below. I’m cleaning it up as best as I can. If you notice your comment has disappeared, it either violated the commenting rules by being rude or off-topic, or it was in reply to one that has since been removed for that reason.

    For #1, please stick to offering advice to the letter writer, not commenting on anti-vaxxers in general.

  2. Greg*

    I know it’s not done in the US very often. But in many Asian countries, lots of people wear face masks to help stop the spread of germs. Maybe take up this tactic in the presence of the known anti-vaxxers.

    1. TL -*

      It would be more helpful to wear a face mask when visiting immunocompromised friend.

      But if you’re not in an area with a outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease right now, it’s unlikely that you’d transfer anything that vaccines would prevent, except the flu. Which you can help by wearing a face mask – it’s uncomfortable, but definitely doable.

      Other than that, if anyone is symptomatic with anything, just mention you are close with someone who is immunocompromised and you need to keep your distance/would prefer them to go home when possible.

      1. Close Bracket*

        > But if you’re not in an area with a outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease right now,

        Even if you are in an area that does not have an outbreak of a vaccine preventable disease right now, you could be in an area with vaccination rates low enough to compromise herd immunity. That’s how areas with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases *become* areas with outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. If the percentage of anti-vaxxers in OP’s workplace is an indication of the vaccination level of the child and young adult population, she might just be in an area with vaccination rates low enough to compromise herd immunity.

        1. valentine*

          OP1 is rightfully just not going to risk it. While continuing contact with the anti-vaxxers, is there even a level of quarantine that she can achieve that would make her safe for her friend? Even if she could work from home, how long would she have to do that before feeling the threat has passed?

          I want to grab this woman by the throat and shake her fillings out while I call her stupid.
          Very Stephen King-ian. Shall I appear to her in plague-doctor PPE?

          1. TL -*

            Tons of communicable diseases can’t be vaccinated for and the LW could easily carry them without being symptomatic. There’s not a safe; there’s a safer and a minimizing risk. If there isn’t an outbreak of vaccine preventable diseases in/near LW’s community, the risk is minimal. If/when an outbreak happens (or if even just one or two cases arise), then further precautions should be taken, but the friend’s doctors will be the best source of information on what those should be.

      2. Samwise*

        The mask makes a point without the OP having to say, Keep away, you “germ-ridden, entitled” fool. If questioned, OP can say very sweetly — or in a calm but very serious tone, pick the one that fits you — Oh, I’ve been visiting a friend on chemo who’s in the hospital with the flu and I don’t want to catch anything that could endanger him!

        If they’re uncritical enough to antivaxxers, they’re probably not going to be able to make any sort of cogent argument against wearing a mask.

        If it were me, I’d make a point of being really ostentatious about putting the mask on when the anti-vaxxer walks into the room — have the mask looped around your neck, then pull it up when they come near. Passive aggressive as hell, but better than what I’d be tempted to say…

        1. Tisiphone*

          From the letter: I work in a science-based field…

          This is the scariest part of the letter. Anti-vaxxers in a science-based field?

          And you say, “If they’re uncritical enough to antivaxxers, they’re probably not going to be able to make any sort of cogent argument against wearing a mask.”

          I just hope these co-workers of the letter writer work in an area where the science isn’t being done.

          1. Helena*

            There’s science, and medicine. No reason why an industrial chemist or particle physicist would have much knowledge of immunology.

            If this is a cancer research lab though, yikes ;)

            1. Creed Bratton*

              But I would hope they would understand the peer review process and how consensus science works – which is what irks me all the more about OP’s coworkers.

            2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Yeah, I’m a chemistry PhD student, and while our numbers aren’t as bad as the OP’s, there’s a dude in our department who doesn’t believe in either evolution or vaccinations. He did get master’s tracked though.. Unrelated reasons I’m sure, but I can choose to believe it’s related.

            3. PlainJane*

              I used to work in a cancer research center that also treated patients. They had all kinds of trouble trying to get the health care providers to get their immunizations. Can you imagine a nurse caring for bone marrow transplant patients who refuses to get a flu shot? It was mind-boggling.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                How about “Get the shot or get fired”? Anti-vaxxers have no business being health care providers.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            This is one of the reasons I didn’t go into lab or trade work. There’s always at least one idiot who doesn’t follow safety rules, and with my luck I would have been the one killed.

          3. AnonEmu*

            It happens – I’ve met dairy scientists who drink raw milk and people with PhDs in animal science that feel flu vaccines are “government overreach” / “I don’t need one because I never get sick”. As someone with a terrible immune system, it makes me want to avoid them as much as practicable, or at least side-eye their judgement on other things . Being a scientist doesn’t excuse you from being an inconsiderate jerk, unfortunately.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        I wear surgical masks for my allergies when I do housework and they are comfortable. They come in boxes at the drugstore.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Hmm, I might have to remember this for doing yard stuff when my tree starts exploding pollen all over the damn place.

    2. Bye Academia*

      I agree that this is a good idea. As annoying as it is for you, it would be a way to take control of the situation. You’re not going to change your coworker’s mind, so you just have to do what you can. If she comments on the mask, you can just calmly explain that you have an immunocompromised friend who can’t afford to be exposed to anything.

      I know it’s frustrating. I used to work in a lab with 10 chemists, and only 2 of us got the flu vaccine every year. Some just didn’t want it, some believed debunked myths about the vaccine. Even scientists who have the tools to understand what’s in vaccines, how they are developed, and herd immunity are going to have their own personal feelings affecting their decision just like your friend affects yours. So focus on what you can do.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        My dad was a chemist and we knew lots of his friends and colleagues from the university. When H1N1 was a big worry, my son was JUST old enough to get the shot, to my great relief. And when I mentioned it to one of his colleagues, she said “oh, I wouldn’t give that to my kids – there’s mercury in it, you know.”

        And I just couldn’t think of what to say to a CHEMIST who didn’t understand that 1) there was no thimerosal in the children’s preparation of the vaccine; 2) that thimerosol is processed differently by the body than other forms of mercury; and 3) she should consider the mercury content of the tuna sandwiches one of her kids ate a minimum of four times a week.

        Mainly I was just relieved for her kids that H1N1 didn’t end up being the threat it could have been; none of them caught it.

        1. Lynca*

          I can believe it. I had people in my environmental geochemistry class that couldn’t grasp the difference AND THEY WERE BEING TAUGHT THE DIFFERENCE!

          I literally just could not even with them.

        2. PMP*

          Along the same lines, it really baffles me how many (seemingly) educated people say that you can get the flu from the flu shot. A few years ago I got tonsillitis and my co-workers insisted it was because I got the flu shot…and I just can’t…that’s not how it works, that’s not how any of this works!

          1. Midwest writer*

            I struggle with how many people confuse stomach flu with influenza. I mean, I had a former co-worker ask me once if my boys had had the flu shot when they came down with a puke-inducing virus. I had to explain the difference. I have stopped using “the flu” to refer to stomach issues, in hopes of educating at least a few people around me.

          2. Dankar*

            A decent number of people experience low-grade flu symptoms after the vaccination, so I always assumed that was what they were referring to. Tonsillitis, though? That’s new!

            I, on the other hand, get so ill that I had to take time off of work after every flu shot. My doctor finally told me to stop getting them.

        3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          There was a fairly scary story making its rounds in chemistry news several years ago about a chemist who accidentally stuck herself with a needle she’d used to transfer dimethyl mercury. It was a moment of careless error that was a particularly sad and slow death sentence. I could see one of the less-biologically-aware chemists hearing that story and getting irrationally freaked about mercury.

    3. Paperdill*

      If you choose to don a mask for whatever purpose please please please please know how to use it properly! Make sure it’s theright mask for the purpose you want (protecting you vs protecting the person you are with), how to use it, the time period in which it is effective and how to dispose of it correctly or it will literally become more of a liability than a protection to anyone.
      My guess, OP, is that if you visit your friend in hospital you will probably have to wear a mask and gown to enter their room, anyway, seeing as he is significantly immunocompromised right now.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Yes for the visit to the friend in hospital, but for work, anything will do. The purpose there can be more performative than effective.

        1. Octopus*

          I can’t help but wonder if the coworkers wouldn’t get the message. I can see them thinking “see, why should I get vaccinated when other people can just wear a mask if they’re concerned?” I really wouldn’t count on wearing a mask having the intended effect.

    4. Lucy*

      I think this is clever, though pass-agg in the best way. You’re not infringing on your coworker’s right not to vaccinate; you’re simply taking steps to protect your loved ones appropriately.

      You wear a mask at work to protect yourself from Patient Zero by the photocopier; you wear a mask when visiting your friend to protect him from anything unimmunisable (totally a word) or which otherwise slipped through the net.

    5. RubyJackson*

      But don’t certain diseases survive on surfaces, like measels? If the un-vaxxed worker had measels, wouldn’t the germs survive on clothing and things like that? A mask wouldn’t work in that case.

      1. Stormfeather*

        I think the idea is to wear the disposable masks/have multiple cloth ones to swap out, and wear different masks between the office and hospital.

    6. JSPA*

      Quality and type matter. Most just stop splatter, and serve to warn people to keep distance. Some disposables (N95 rated, with no vent) are quite effective in holding viruses in or out (but get sweaty fast, with use). Others (N95, vented) keep viruses out quite well, but not in (but don’t get as sweaty). The non-disposable sort with replaceable cannister bits would be seriously gross if you were sick, but would presumably be even more effective if someone else is. Links to follow.

      1. JSPA*


        3M™ Particulate Respirator 8670F
        3M™ Particulate Respirator 8612F
        Pasture Tm F550G Respirator
        Pasture Tm A520G Respirator

        These are the only ones that are officially FDA tested and approved. But in theory, every N95 rated respirator should block incoming particulates down to the appropriate size, if a proper fit can be achieved and maintained. And outgoing, depending on same (won’t hold if you’re snorting like a grampus and snotting down your chin–JUST STAY HOME). Home Depot, Lowes, most Ace hardwares and similar should have some N95’s in stock for between $2 and $4 each, depending how large a pack you buy.

  3. KP*

    I’m disturbed that No. 1 is this furious over one of four coworkers not getting a FLU VACCINE. That is not generally the category of people thought of as “rabid anti-vaxxers.” Especially when the workplace is not a hospital or facility that requires it. This is wrong.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That wasn’t my read of it — my read is that the coworker is an anti-vaxxer in general, and the OP is concerned about putting the friend at risk for other (non-flu) things the coworker might be carrying around. (It’s the friend who has influenza, not the coworker.)

      1. Mm*

        I read it the opposite way. “He’s the type of person herd immunity protects, and now he might die from a preventable disease. And I refuse to visit him right now due to exposure I might have from this germ-ridden, entitled coworker.”

        Sounds like OP1 is worried the friend not the coworker.

        1. Beth*

          This was my read as well; OP is upset that her friend caught something that herd immunity could have protected against, and concerned about passing on further germs (other influenza strains? measles?) due to her regular exposure to anti-vaxxers.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think we’re reading it the same way. I don’t think the OP is worried about the coworker not having had a flu shot; I think she’s worried about all the other vaccinations she hasn’t had.

            1. BookishMiss*

              That’s how I read it also.
              Is there a way to head off the debate about vaccinations that’s happened on past letters? I remember it devouring the comments section on one, and didn’t really add to the advice for the LW.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t think I’ve ever allowed anti-vaxxer propaganda here, and that will continue to be true on this post. If you see any, please flag it for me (by including a link in your reply so it goes to moderation, where I’ll definitely see it0.

                1. Just Employed Here*

                  Yeah, it’s not so much that there’s been anti-vaxxer propaganda, but more comment after comment after comment about the benefits of vaccinations. Which I do understand, but which have still felt derailing from the actual question asked and answer given.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, and I’m seeing that here too (after being away from the site for hours to sleep, etc.). I should have called for that originally. I’ll see if I’m able to moderate some of it now…

                3. Jaz*

                  Sorry if this seems sycophantic, but I always want to commend you for being willing to answer questions that touch on politics, vaccination, abortion, etc. despite knowing you’ll have to moderate the resulting comment section storm. You set a great example for the people (myself included) tempted to shy away from the tough but necessary conversations and stick to the easy, feel-good stuff.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I read it the same way as Alison. I think OP is upset that the coworker is compromising herd immunity by failing to obtain vaccinations/boosters in the general sense. The flu is an example, but I suspect OP is more upset about illnesses that the MMR, Tdap, polio, meningococcal, etc., vaccines cover.

              1. Drax*

                Until Today I had no idea I was supposed to get boosters or anything like that, or that I was born and vaccinated in period where there is potential for issues (I believe someone said up to and including ones issued in 1991) so I will be going to my doctor this weekend to check on that!!

              1. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

                Thing is, the flu vaccine is one of those where many adults just won’t bother. “It always gives me the flu.” “I’m never sick.” They will vaccinate their kids and get a tetanus shot after a nasty cut, and are certain to get Hep A and B shots before heading south, but just won’t bother for the flu vaccine and aren’t true anti-vaxxers. And most adults cannot be bothered to get boosters – they forget that immunity wanes (and at different rates depending on the disease).

                While the coworker might be “germ infested” because she’s so anti-vax, the sad truth is MOST adults are possible vectors because most just don’t follow up with boosters or don’t bother with flu shorts.

                I hope for a speedy recovery for the immunocompromised friend!

                1. Jaz*

                  There’s also an issue where parents are a lot more likely to prioritize their kids’ health over their own. Right now my daughter has health insurance that covers all of her vaccinations. I don’t, and haven’t found anywhere nearby that offers adults free booster shots. If I can take care of one or the other, I’m definitely going to choose my daughter’s care over my own.

                2. Jules the 3rd*

                  I originally read it as being flu-focused, because most adults got their shots as kids, but then realized someone with an unvaxxed kid could easily carry measles into work with them, given how long that germ lives.

                3. blackcat*

                  “While the coworker might be “germ infested” because she’s so anti-vax, the sad truth is MOST adults are possible vectors because most just don’t follow up with boosters or don’t bother with flu shorts.”

                  Or appropriate boosters aren’t available. I’m fully vaxxed and I still got the mumps three years ago (as an adult). I researched it after that–the mumps vaccine is the least effective of the MMR and while the mumps is super mild in vaxx-ed people, you’re just as contagious. It took me a week before I realized it. And I had been using crowded public transit.

                  I think the good news for the OP, is that most adults who are anti-vaxxers did receive proper vaccinations as children. The big worry, I think, would be pertussis, which adults should regularly get boosters for. It is also seriously no joke. My brother got it (despite being vaxxed) when he was 8 or so and his lungs never fully recovered.

                4. KR*

                  I just want to point out that until I got to this comment section I didn’t know adults had to have boosters. My medical records didn’t transfer over to my new doctor after I got on my spouses insurance and literally no one at the doctor’s office has asked if I was vaccinated. OP is working with some **anti-vaxxers** but let’s not assume that every other adult is up to date on everything and is even aware they may not be up to date

                5. JenRN*

                  Yeah, I got whooping cough 10 years ago (at 34) and it presented as a bad cold for 3-4 days before the cough that never never stopped appeared. I was using transit. Ugh.

                6. Psyche*

                  A lot of it isn’t adults not bothering to get boosters. A lot aren’t told to get a booster by their doctor. We don’t regularly test for immunity to see when the MMR wears off and current recommendations don’t include an adult booster unless you have proof that you lack immunity.

                7. My Cabbages!!*

                  And immunity can wane quickly! When I went in for my PhD (in infectious disease!) I had to have my Ab titers checked because my MMR paperwork was missing, and everything came out fine. So I was pretty horrified when I got pregnant and they told me my rubella titers were basically nothing.

                8. BelleMorte*

                  You can ask for titres to be done during a physical to check your level of immunity and then vaccinate accordingly.

                9. JSPA*

                  Yes, get your boosters! Or get checked for titres, at least.

                  Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Diphtheria, Pertussis ±Tetanus. Pertussis and measles have been having outbreaks sporadically for the last decade, and it’s not all intentional vax avoidance.

                  Admittedly, nobody loves getting tetanus shots. They generally ache. But painful as it is at the injection site, you know you don’t want to die with that sensation all through your body.

                10. Octopus*

                  Current medical practice in the US and by the CDC do not recommend vaccine boosters for adults except for tetanus every 10 years and then a couple more at ages 50 and 65.

            3. Gumby*

              I suspect, however, that the co-worker *has* had the normal course of childhood vaccinations (whatever was normal when and where co-worker was a child). She’s the anti-vaxxer, now, not her parents, when she was younger. So I’d assume co-worker’s kids were un-vaccinated, but not co-worker. Except for the flu shot. But, as pointed out, many people don’t get that from reasons un-related to their feelings on vaccinations in general.

            4. JSPA*

              There’s also a lot of (very reasonable, well-founded) group-directed anger being focused (less excusably, but still understandably) at one person.

              We’re psychologically equipped to personalize every interaction.

              We can’t, actually effectively decrease the spread of flu, community-wide, via the flu shot.* Friend is no doubt around other immunocompromised people and around other people who are at medical centers because they’re sick with the flu and around hospital staff (many of whom may or even must work sick!). So he didn’t get the flu from coworker. But here’s someone with no flu shot, and she’s reveling in her refusal, and (even though OP #1 may encounter any number of other people daily whose flu-protection, for whatever reason, is just as bad) the natural response is anger, anger, anger. OP’s entitled to their anger, but might find the reasoning and planning simpler if it’s possible to let go of the anger while strategizing.

              *having to do with mutation rates, the ability of flu viruses to trade off bits, the guessing game involved in predicting which strains of each virus will predominate, the limiting of the vaccine to three (max 4?) likely candidate viruses, the degree to which vaccinated people can still get a milder version of the flu they’re vaccinated against, all of which make the vaccine extremely individually helpful, but not something that can “wipe out” the spread of a disease.

      2. We all scream for ice cream*

        But most anti-vaxxers themselves have probably been vaccinated for childhood diseases, since the anti-vax movement is a relatively recent phenomenon. Anti-vaxxers focus on not vaccinating their own kids but they themselves are usually vaccinated.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Unless (likely?) they arent getting adult boisters for things the Tdap, etc. There’s readins they recommend adults get these shots that we also got as kids.

          So if one of their kids has something and they haven’t had a booster for that disease since 1987 then they could pick it up/pass it on. Sure it could happen with a vaccination, but the odds are reeaallyy remote.

          1. blackcat*

            Yes, this. And stuff like the MMR vaccine does get less effective over time. So if their kid gets measles, they could become a carrier even if they don’t get noticeably sick. When I (a fully vaxxed person) got the mumps, it was super mild but I was definitely spreading it around before I thought to call my mom and ask “wait, do I have the mumps?”

        2. Dollis Hill*

          I don’t know about the US, but in the UK the anti-vax movement has been around for a fair old while; I grew up in the 1980s and there was a number of kids in my agegroup who were not vaccinated, mostly because their parents thought it was unhealthy and it was better to let nature take its course. I was vaccinated against measles but was one of a very small number of kids who were, it was seen as overkill because apparently “measles isn’t that bad, it’s a normal childhood disease”. The debunked study that made anti-vaxxing more mainstream was released in the late 1990s, and it was then that the movement began to be more publicised. So not really relatively recent, as much as it pains me to realise that the 1990s aren’t as recent as I’d like to think they are!

          1. Equestrian Attorney*

            I was born in 1989 and my aunt didn’t vaccinate my cousins (in the US). So it’s not that recent.

            1. Someone Else*

              A small number of people doing this is not that recent. What’s recent is the number refusing to vaccinate their children has grown sufficient to significantly compromise herd immunity. I definitely knew some kids whose parents refused to do it in the 80s, but it’s more common now which is much much more dangerous.

          2. Magenta Sky*

            While there have always been people skeptical of vaccines, the current “movement” dates from 1998, when Andrew Wakefield published what is now proven to be a fraudulent paper (he lost his medical license over it) on the subject implying a connection between MMR vaccines and autism.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          This was my original thought, but an unvaxxed kid could share germs with their parents. Measles lives for a couple of hours in the air, I bet it lives longer in a warm, wet environment, even if it isn’t able to take effective hold because of an activated immune system.

        4. BethRA*

          Right, but while the coworkers may be anti-vax in general, OP’s friend is currently sick with the flu – which IS something adults should be getting vaccinated against.

          1. Stormfeather*

            Enh, that varies. I’ve also seen it said you should only get vaxxed for the flu if you’re one of the people who really need to be protected (the elderly, etc.) or around them a lot, or are a nurse or what have you, partly because there have been shortages of the vaccines. At least that was my understanding of it!

            1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

              It gets said, but I don’t know if it is for safety reasons. In EU people who don’t belong to the groups you mentioned can still get the vaccine, but they have to pay for it themselves. Which makes me think the healthcare system cannot pay for everyone and so is just trying to set priorities.

    2. Artemesia*

      Yeah I would be annoyed to work around an antivaxer but to be realistic here if the LW is well vaccinated then she is unlikely to pick up a preventable illness to pass along. She is not going to pick up measles or chicken pox or pertussis or whatever and give it to her friend. Flu vaccine is not as effective and so there is some risk there but your friend is not hanging with your co-worker so the risk is fairly low.

      1. TL -*

        It is possible to pass it along, even immunized and symptomless, but highly unlikely, especially if there isn’t an outbreak where the LW is currently. There are a number of measles, mumps, and whooping cough vaccines that are happening/have happened recently in the USA, so it’s definitely a more nuanced decision.

        1. Samwise*

          I gotta say, as the mom of a previously immuno-compromised kid (chemo), “highly unlikely” is not good enough when it’s “highly unlikely but preventable”.

          1. Artemesia*

            Well yeah, but you can’t control the world and there are plenty of people whose vaccines have worn off or who fail to vaccinate. I know when my daughter was pregnant each time, we reviewed our TDAP and the first time we got boosters. The LW is vaccinated — they are not going to pick up classic illnesses that vaccines cover from the anti-vax co-worker to pass on to the friend. Flu vaccine is only semi effective and so that is a risk regardless.

            1. Kettles*

              Unless OP’s titers are down, or the original vaccine didn’t take, or she unknowingly needs a booster.

      2. Beth*

        I think her decision not to visit is less about whether she’s objectively likely to pass something along, and more about that she feels she’s relatively MORE likely to pass something along than someone who isn’t exposed to multiple unvaccinated people. Even if the odds still aren’t that high, wouldn’t it be awful if her friend did catch something nasty while already in an immunocompromised and weakened state? It’s low-risk but potentially very high consequences, so I understand erring on the side of caution.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m torn because I think this depends on where OP lives. I’ve now lived in multiple areas where the vaccine opt-out rate was high enough to compromise herd immunity, and the concern about that type of immunity failing was reasonable for those regions. But in a community where enough people are vaccinated to maintain herd immunity? In those contexts, it’s less likely that OP will expose their friend to measles, etc.

        IMO, the flu is much easier to spread and much scarier for an immunocompromised person. But if I were also living in a region with low vaccination rates, I might be worried about both.

        As an overall matter, I would struggle with a rabidly anti-vaxxer coworker because I have such strong ~feelings~ about communicable diseases and low-risk, preventive public health interventions. If I currently work with an anti-vaxxer (I probably do), I appreciate that they’re not trumpeting their position at work.

        1. Lucy*

          If it’s Rockland County, NY, where they’ve just declared a measles emergency, then it could be in the forefront of LW’s mind!

          1. Anon from the Bronx*

            My adult vaccinated daughter works with many group home residents in Rockland county right in the midst of the outbreak area & I am very concerned.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          Your last paragraph expresses my —immunocompromised— thoughts/feelings perfectly.

      4. M*

        This simply isn’t accurate. No vaccine is 100% effective, and without some very high-level bloodwork, the letter writer simply can’t know that all of the vaccines she’s had have given her full immunity to the relevant diseases. Routine contact with people who are known not to be vaccinated significantly increases her chance of picking something up – and as her friend is immunocompromised, the types of diseases we get routine vaccinations for are likely to be clear-cut-fatal for him. As a result, while it’s a low chance that she both lacks immunity for something she’s been vaccinated for and that one of her walking-illness-incubator coworkers get exposed to the relevant illness to pass it on, the *consequences* of that happening are in this case extremely significant.

    3. Beth*

      My read of this was that OP’s coworkers are rabid anti-vaxxers, and the flu vaccine is among the multiple vaccines they’re not up-to-date on. It’s true that the flu vaccine isn’t considered mandatory the same way that others are, so I assumed that ‘rabid anti-vaxxers’ had to be a more general statement than that.

      1. Cindy Featherbottom*

        Thank you! Most people dont realize that they are infectious before they even feel symptoms and that they are infectious for 5 to 7 days after the illness. People are passing on the flu without even knowing they have it sometimes. And the flu has killed healthy people before….
        OP1, I agree with wearing a mask if it doesn’t bother you or interfere with your work. Its probably the simplest (physical) solution. As for the emotional, my best suggestion is to try not to engage in vaccine talk at work if you can avoid it. If people are open to it, be willing to explain the benefits of vaccination and be calm and logical if they spout their anti-vaxx hypotheses (to those who are willing to even discuss it logically, of course). Even though you can’t visit your friend in the hospital, could you arrange to help them some other way? Maybe cook some meals for them and stick them in their freezer so they don’t have to worry about that when they get home? Clean up their place a little (if you have access of course)? Maybe have some puzzle books or something sent to the hospital to keep them entertained (sitting in a hospital bed for days can get super boring)? I thinking finding a positive way to help your friend might help take your focus off of your coworkers. I’m sorry you are even having to deal with this. I hope your friend gets better!

      2. thestik*

        As someone’s whose mother is currently immunocompromised, I for one commend OP’s restraint. I admit if I encountered an antivaxxer who advertised their stance, I’d have trouble not bursting into tears and asking why they want to use their kids to put my mom’s life in danger.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Go ahead, don’t hold back! People like that need to be shocked out of their oblivious selfishness.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I am a huge proponent of shocking people out of harmful views by showing, bluntly, that they hurt very real people rather than abstractions. The last few years have made it clear the world is teeming with evil that will never be defeated if we politely pretend it isn’t evil.

      3. Perpal*

        I work in health care and had to get the flu shot; but I didn’t think it was a big deal till I saw someone previously healthy die overnight of the flu. It’s rare to be that severe but not that rare. Even when the shots don’t prevent the flu (and the flu shot is a bit notorious for this) it’s been shown to reduce the severity of illness. “vaccinated adults were 59 percent less likely to have very severe illness resulting in ICU admission than those who had not been vaccinated.”
        But anyway, OP talked about their rage because they want to figure out how to deal with it, so I think that’s legit.
        Anyway I think the concern goes beyond the flu, ie, potentially passing along measles or pertussus; I would think it might be appropriate to shut down any antivax talk at work “I find this talk really inappropriate please stop”

      4. philosophical_conversation*

        I agree with other replies, I think that OP is showing a great deal of restraint. I’d be furious if I was in their position. I nearly died from the flu at 21 and I can’t imagine how I’d react if a coworker blatantly chose not to take part in preventing it.

        Getting the yearly flu vaccine is incredibly important for public health, especially for those who are immunocompromised or who can’t get the vaccine for various reasons. Herd immunity is very, very real.

        The flu vaccine has varying levels of effectiveness. If, as a society, we want to minimize the number of people who get sick, it’s important that as many people as possible get the vaccine. Even if you personally aren’t affected by the flu, you could still be a carrier and accidentally pass it on to someone who’s not as immune to the flu as you are or who is unable to get vaccinated.

        1. Linzava*

          “The flu vaccine has varying levels of effectiveness.”

          In all the years I’ve gotten the flu shot, I’ve had the flu once, and it lasted one day and wasn’t severe. Even on low effectiveness, they do reduce the spread and severity, especially for healthy individuals like me.

          Thank you for sharing your story, I’m so glad you recovered. I hope you don’t read this post as me nitpicking, the flu shot has been treated as a minor thing for so long. You and survivors like you are why I get my flu shot every year and badger my boyfriend until he gets it too.

          1. philosophical_conversation*

            Oh absolutely, in no way was I saying not to get the flu shot!

            I was more trying to convey that even if it’s not 100% effective all the time, you’re still reducing your chances of getting the flu/passing it on by getting vaccinated!

            1. Linzava*

              I totally didn’t take it that way, I was just expanding on your statement. I’m sorry if my response read as a correction.

        1. Aveline*

          I did say I didn’t know which it is. So I don’t see how raising a possibility but saying it might not be true is reading too much in.

          I very clearly said it might be one or the other or neither. OP should ask herself.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Way derailed here, but removing dental fillings with a hand gesture would be a fun mutant superpower to have. If someone was being a jerky loudmouth, you could quietly make a gesture under the table, and all of the sudden “pop” – they would have to shut up and root around their mouth with their tongue, trying to figure out what just happened with their dental work, and then excuse themselves trying to get their dentist’s office on the phone.

      5. EtherIther*

        Regardless of the nitpicking being good or not, it is true that ilk has a negative connotation.

        1. Lepidoptera*

          If nitpicking wording is outside the posting guidelines, then arguing over preferred connotation is spitting on the guidelines and lighting them on fire.

      6. Ughhhhh*

        I get it. I watched my cousin die at 27 in the ICU when he was immunocompromised after a bone marrow transplant. The infection that killed him would have been a blip on the radar of any healthy adult. Having seen this, I would be filled with rage if a coworker I worked closely with were going on about not vaccinating!

      7. kittymommy*

        Same. We just found out at work that a work friend (they work with another organization) is in ICU in a medically induced coma due to the flu. So yeah, I get the anger.

      8. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        In the US, a lot of pharmacies will offer it for free during peak flu season (like September to December). I got mine done at the CVS and they gave me a 25% off coupon for it. No insurance check, no copay, and in a way I’m getting paid for it since I got a discount. The state of healthcare in this country is sucky, but flu shots are not part of it.

      9. Jessie the First (or second)*

        My son is immune compromised and medically fragile, and the flu could kill him. He’s already been in the ICU several times in his short life for less serious respiratory infections. I *completely* get the LW’s word choice, and I feel the same anger LW does. Someone doesn’t want to be bothered to get a flu shot? I look at my little one and see red.

      10. Zennish*

        One of this particular coworker’s behaviors is apparently choosing to align with a group that is widely considered a danger to society. If they don’t want to be judged by association, they shouldn’t associate.

      11. Joielle*

        This doesn’t make sense. The “entire movement” of anti-vaxxers is based on people not getting vaccines. That’s literally the single thing that makes them a “movement” in the first place. That’s the thing the coworker is doing. How would the coworker be a “scapegoat” if she is personally doing the thing?

        Also, I think it’s pretty condescending to paint this as some irrational reaction of an overly-emotional OP. Personally, I don’t know anyone immunocompromised and I still have an incredible amount of of rage at anti-vaxxers. I think OP’s stance is perfectly reasonable.

        1. Artemesia*

          Me too. The choice these people make literally endangers the rest of us. It is particularly grim for babies and the elderly and those who are immunocompromised but can put anyone at risk. My grandmother, a perfectly healthy 25 year old woman died in the 1918 flu epidemic leaving my father motherless at 2 years of age; 10s of thousands of Americans die every year of flu even with the less virulent strains at present. It is monumentally irresponsible of people to go unvaccinated and particularly to advocate it and act on it for their children. I have a cousin whose first baby caught meningitis in early infancy; this ‘child’ died not long ago in her 50s having never been toilet trained, never learned to speak, never developing past the mental abilities of a toddler; her mother’s entire life was spent caring for her daughter. This is now preventable with vaccine; I can’t imagine not protecting kids from that.

      12. roisin54*

        I understand their wording, and I’d feel the same way in that position. My dad has weak lungs and has been told if he gets pneumonia again he’ll probably die. If he gets a bad enough cold or any kind of flu it would be very, very bad for him. If he wound up getting that sick because of someone passing along something to him that they could’ve easily avoided getting, I would not be able to contain my fury.

      13. Autumnheart*

        This is false equivalence. Anti-vaxxers are directly responsible for spreading disease and killing people. There’s no need to be tolerant or nice about that.

    4. Trendy*

      Yes, people of their “ilk” didn’t come across very well, nor Allison’s lumping it in with other social causes. I have done my research quite extensively before making a decision to no longer take the flu vaccine and considers those who criticize the anti’vaxxer’s or whatever they are being labeled who haven’t done their research, ignorant. Trust me when I say if a co-worker thought they could lecture me on this, well it wouldn’t go well.

        1. Observer*

          Well, my doctor IS skilled in medical research. And while he has been highly, highly vocal in our community about the need for vaccinations (to the point of getting the local schools to stop accepting anything but well documented medical exemptions for students and teachers), he does NOT push flu vaccine the same way for all people. Of course, he is extremely clear that if you are dealing with someone who is immunocompromised the flu vaccine is “critical” (that’s his word.) Same for a few other populations (eg you’re working with kids), but for everyone else, yes he encourages it but he doesn’t see it as critical.

          Lumping people who haven’t gotten their flu vaccine with anti-vaxxers is just not accurate.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            I did not lump people who refuse to get the flu shot in with the entire anti-vax movement.

            However, there is no conceivable way someone could “do the research” and determine that they should not take the flu vaccine. The only reasons not to take the flu vaccine are if you’re advised not to by a trained and certified medical professional, or if you clearly fall under the guidance provided by the FDA for people who should not get the flu shot.

            1. LCL*

              I’m skilled in the field of google. It tells me that the diseases we vaccinate against are airborne, which in the real world means the bacteria or virus can survive long enough in the air that anyone exposed to them could inadvertently carry the live pathogen to someone else. That is reason enough to vaccinate. TLDR: These diseases hitchhike and can go anywhere.

      1. evie from the mummy*

        How many systematic reviews have you read on the topic? Meta-analysis? My guess is none, because if you had, you would still be getting the flu shot. Reading blogs and “articles” from Dr. Mercola is not conducting research.

      2. ScienceLady*

        I respectfully disagree with you, commenter. Refusing to vaccinate is one of the most actively harmful actions a typical (non-murdering, non-arsoning) adult can do. Endorse flat Earth theory? Fine. It makes my job in science education more challenging, but I can swallow my annoyance and robustly counter this with students easily. Litter? Still not great, of course, but altruism can overcome your negative actions. However, refusal to vaccinate can actually, actively kill someone else. Repeating – actual people, humans, like all of us, can die when individuals do not vaccinate (Google “PNAS Vaccination Saves Lives”).

        Perhaps you are only speaking of the flu vaccine. However, I am troubled by your statement that you have done your research and that those who criticize anti-vaxxers are ignorant. My friend, I might ask if you believe that the planet Jupiter exists. My guess is that you do. The scientific evidence for the benefit and safety of vaccines is akin to that of Jupiter existing – it is comprehensive, substantial, and as close as science gets to infallible. There are no, zero, nada, etc. peer-reviewed studies which refute the safety and benefit of vaccines. Unfortunately, anti-vaxxers are typically accepting of science or fact. They have deemed a source to be true (most often a website or a social media group) and accept that as their source of truth, rather than science or fact. This is the great danger, my commenter friend. Decisions to not vaccinate against preventable diseases cause actual harm – death – and facts do not help mitigate this danger. That is the harm.

        1. notReptilian*

          You underestimate the risks of other conspiracy-theory type things. Speaking as someone who got into the middle of that unwillingly as a kid (due to family) it all becomes pretty horrifically racist/xenophobic once people cross the point of “normal people roll their eyes at you when you express your beliefs”. Hate crimes, people proudly talking about “doing their part” discriminating against certain groups, etc.

          I think kids in it who still go to a non-conspiracy-specifically-related school (public, private, religious, whatever, as long as it’s not the specific conspiracy group the parents are part of) are among the most likely to get out of this BECAUSE of the work of people like you, but it’s still dangerous and it has worse effects than people think. I can’t speak directly to the flat-earth one, because that’s not the one I was in, but I have heard that it also gets dicey as you get further into it.

      3. Batgirl*

        Yeah it’s one thing to talk about being afraid of the danger, or to not to want to be near co-worker…but I was very taken aback by dehumanizing words like ‘rabid’, ‘ilk’ and ‘lying low’.
        They are human beings not vermin.
        The point when OP is picturing actual violence against the co-worker might be the point to admit she is too emotionally upset and isn’t the person to have this conversation with her co-workers. I think she should bring the visiting-friend dilemma to a manager who might mediate for her.

        1. Rumbakalao*

          As Valentine pointed out above, there’s a difference between dangerous and/or violent behavior and disagreement.

          I will absolutely speak with the same amount of vitriol regarding people who are actively harmful to me and to society. People have the same response when we read letters about anti-LGBT relatives, sexist coworkers, people who commit hate crimes. When you’re looking at someone who is a walking sickness incubator that puts your loved ones at risk, it is perfectly reasonable to end up at this point. Plus, OP doesn’t say she’s gotten into fistfights over it- just that it’s extremely frustrating and taking an emotional toll on her well-being and happiness at work.

          1. Batgirl*

            Ok you do you. To be clear, I think it’s absolutely legitimate for her to be upset and nearing boiling point. I was just responding to her request ‘How do I handle the rage’ by answering ‘not in person when you feel like this’.
            It’s tempting to egg her on and make her feel no wording is too far, but she didn’t ask for that and it’s not necessary for her to grab her verbal sword. Most managers would have no problem saying to the anti vaxxer ‘knock it off with controversial stuff at work. You have no idea what health stuff people are dealing with’ which keeps OP out of it entirely.
            That’s before we even get into the practicalities of the manager being the best person to speak to about getting more physical distance from this co-worker.

      4. Not A Manager*

        I completely trust you when you say that if a co-worker tried to reason with you, it would not go well.

  4. Heynonynony*

    Many adults opt not to get the flu shot. Many more are behind on their boosters. Some get vaccinated but don’t develop immunity. You are out in the world with these people every day. While I understand your concern, you have many more possible points of exposure than this one co-worker.

    While I understand your position this woman may be doing you a favor by letting you know she opts out while others don’t speak up.

    1. Mike C.*

      Just because there is risk being out in the world doesn’t mean that you don’t try to control the risk you possibly can. I might get hit by a forklift tomorrow at work, but I’m still going to buckle up on the drive there.

      And no, people who make a conscious decision not to vaccinate outside of medical need aren’t helping anyone.

      1. Lissa*

        True, but I don’t think your comment really invalidates Heynonynony’s point either. I love vaccines a lot and think anti-vaxxers are seriously misinformed, but I don’t think that LW1’s risk of passing anything along to their friend is any more than an average person would be – it just feels emotionally worse and more frustrating because they have to listen to their ridiculous coworker.

        1. Kettles*

          It’s a statistically higher risk because humans can respond differently to the vaccine. That’s the whole point of herd immunity. A person who doesn’t get vaccinated is at higher risk of being a disease vector and if one of OP’s vaccine levels are lower than she knows, she could absolutely catch something from this co-worker.

          1. blackcat*

            One option OP has is to ask her doctor to do titers. That way, she’ll know if she should get a booster for, say, chicken pox or MMR.

          2. cheluzal*

            I’m pro-choice with vaccinations (you do you), but I want to point out that technically “herd immunity” was a term coined to describe natural vaccination from the disease, not man-made injections. It was noted when only about 55% of the population had it, too…

            1. Octopus*

              That technicality is irrelevant. The term “herd immunity” is now used to talk about human-made vaccinations.

        2. JamieS*

          I disagree. It’s possible and might depend on where you live but I don’t think it’s that plausible most people are in constant contact with someone who not only isn’t vaccinated but is likely exposed to others who also aren’t vaccinated at all (such as the anti-vaxxers kids).

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Yeah, there is a big difference between crossing paths in a random store with an unvaccinated person and spending 40 hours per week in an enclosed space with an unvaccinated person.

    2. Kate, short for Bob*

      There’s being lazy and there’s being pro-plague. This coworker is actively trying to decrease herd immunity by evangelising bad science.

    3. Observer*

      While what you say is true it’s not the whole story. When vaccination rates in a community are high enough for herd immunity to kick in, the likelihood of becoming a carried for a vaccine preventable disease are far lower than in other communities.

      1. ScienceLady*

        Hello Observer! Might you be able to link us to the study which helps support your statement?

        1. Observer*

          What are you asking for? Proof that herd immunity reduces that rates at which people become carriers for vaccine preventable diseases?! I’m trying to wrap my head around anyone calling themselves “science”anything seriously challenging that.

  5. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I don’t even have words for # 1. This situation infuriates me.

    The mask idea would certainly make a statement.

    Can you do your job without interacting with this person? Is management/HR aware of these people not being vaccinated? I don’t know what the laws are regarding this. I know I wouldn’t want to work with an unvaccinated person.
    When my children had chicken pox in 1995, their pediatrician told me to keep them out the pharmacy since chicken pox could be fatal to someone undergoing chemo or to someone with AIDS. I’ve never forgotten that. I feel guilty that I came down with a cold a couple days after visiting my cousin’s baby!

    I am sorry you are dealing with this. Hope your friend is ok.

    1. Jasnah*

      I agree with the suggestion to explore options to work further away (physically) from this person. Maybe that could allow OP to visit their friend.

      That said, OP, you sound really really really angry at this person. Which I understand! They’re making a stupid decision for stupid reasons that are hurting people. But I encourage you to think of this as a test of your patience and empathy and treat her how you would want to be treated by someone who vehemently disagreed with you. I wonder if some of the frustration you feel at not being able to see/help your friend is affecting how you see her. She, personally, is not the reason your friend is sick, and you are the one who decided to make the cost/benefit analysis to protect your friend. Yes she is being dumb and dangerous, but I hope you can regain a sense of agency in this.

      It’s so, so hard to deal with people who are making dangerous decisions that affect us and loved ones for dumb reasons. It’s horrible to listen to them spew crap about how their victims deserve this, if only they accepted the one correct solution, the one that all experts and people with common sense have rejected, but this Facebook post says it’s the truth, and also here’s an anecdote about someone you don’t know, so just forget about the actual harm caused to someone you do know.

      For me, all I can ask is that they stop preaching to me and treat me with respect. I can’t control what they do, just what I do–which is why I vote and donate accordingly. So I try to give the same respect back: not to the actual ideas themselves, which are not worthy of respect, and I will definitely question the person’s integrity and our relationship, but I don’t preach to them, and I try not to let the disdain creep into my voice. If I can’t or won’t cut them out, then I just try to follow the golden rule and be the best person I can.

      There are so many of us in different versions of this situation, so I’m interested to see what others have to say, but this is what I’m trying, and I hope it is helpful for you. Solidarity my friend.

      1. Kettles*

        This isn’t about philosophical disagreement. Would you agree to live and let live, and not judge, and respect the views of a drunk driver? Because that’s the equivalent of what this co-worker is doing; recklessly endangering the lives of others through her own stupidity. And In fact, this woman could *absolutely* be the reason her friend is in hospital.

        1. valentine*

          Yes; I hate when people boil dangerous and/or violent behavior to disagreement. This isn’t someone who’s all talk. She’s living her philosophy and she’s Typhoid Mary to OP1 right now.

          1. Kettles*

            Yes. Polite disagreement is for sports teams, religion and trivial stuff like sriracha. Not endangering other people’s lives.

        2. Jasnah*

          I think you’ve misunderstood, I’m not saying this is a mere philosophical disagreement. I’m saying that you can judge them all you want, but if you absolutely have to work with them, well, you don’t want them preaching at you, so don’t preach to them and muster cool civility as best you can. Sometimes you have to find a way to deal with people who are wrong, and for me, my solution is to find other ways to counteract their influence besides arguing with them, and agree not to discuss it at work (or ever).

          1. Mongrel*

            I think part of the problem is you tend to find out that people are rabidly anti-vaccine because they’re the ones who make it overwhelmingly clear, they’re crusaders with a persecution complex

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              This. And if they are going to preach their not even on a high enough level to be called “junk science” to me, then they will hear chapter and verse about immunology, disease vectors, herd immunity, et al. until someone drags me away. I didnt take way too many bio classes for nothing.

            2. Aveline*

              I had a woman once throw a hissy fit at a party bc I worked with autistic kids and was nor antivaxx. I was scolded for not being sensitive to her bc she had an ASD kid she believed was wounded by vaccines.

              I told them that I didn’t think ASD was a “defect” worthy of such shame that we had to scapegoat vaccines. What I didn’t say is that I was standing next to a person I knew to be borderline ASD.

              The hissy fit woman didn’t take my lack of agreement and let it lie. She kept escalating and attaching my intelligence and compassion. I love to argue, but in this case, all I wanted to do was disengage or deescalate. She wouldn’t have anything other than total compliance with her view.

              It was as bad as sitting next to a rabid evangelical while wearing a feminist T-shirt.

              1. Batgirl*

                I teach SEN kids too and this kind of parent is really resistant to experimenting with medication for management of their needs. I mean, we get it. The potential side effects are not fun to read about and there’s an argument towards letting them decide for themselves as adults. Plus the parents will absolutely buckle on principles if their need is that severe. They sometimes need to go through some stages of fear and grief first sometimes. So, we don’t preach.
                Shame it doesn’t always go the same way in reverse.

          2. Kettles*

            I would agree with you, except that this person is already foisting her views on OP. I find it maddening that people like this get to preach their views and be rude, and hateful, and it’s on reasonable people to bite their tongue and not engage.

            Why hasn’t a manager intervened and told these people that their views are offensive and no one wants to hear it? Why don’t they have the common sense not to say things like this to people who have suffering loved ones?

            1. Jaz*

              I think workplaces should generally declare a moratorium on vaccine talk in general. Anti-vaxxer diatribes are hugely upsetting to people whose loved ones are immunocompromised or sick. However, though I absolutely disagree with their stance and hope someone in their private lives introduces them to more reputable science, many people who are firmly anti-vaccine also have at least one child they consider vaccine-damaged. Vaccines really can have lasting adverse effects in a small portion of the population, and can even be fatal in a tiny percentage, so engaging in a diatribe without knowing every bystander’s whole personal and family health history could be pretty loaded. It’s best to leave the whole conversation out of the workplace.

              1. Kettles*

                I agree it’s best to leave the discussion out of the workplace. The point I was trying to make is that these people routinely bring it *into* the workplace. A pro vaxx person wouldn’t bother bringing it up.

                1. Jaz*

                  Maybe it’s just my field (special education and disability care) but pro vaccine arguments are brought up surprisingly frequently in many of the workplaces I’ve worked in.

              2. ElspethGC*

                Many anti-vax diatribes are actively ableist and are extremely disturbing to hear for anyone who is autistic or who knows someone autistic, too.

                Someone says “I didn’t vaccinate my child because vaccines cause autism”; I hear “I’d rather my child die than be like your friends and family members”. I have friends and family right across the ASD spectrum, from significantly developmentally delayed to diagnosed with Aspergers. All of them are definitely preferable to *dead*.

                If I *was* autistic and heard a co-worker talking like that? I would hear “I’d rather my child be dead than be like you.” I’d imagine it would be extremely distressing. Would it escalate to being a hostile work environment if it kept coming up? I would definitely class it as discriminatory.

                1. Aveline*


                  I’ve heard and seen the ableism far, far too often. Even from parents of ASD kids who blame the vaccines for making their child damaged or lesser.

                  They actively view their kids as broken and damaged, not merely as different.

                2. Tammy*

                  I’ve actually said to people like that “I am on the autism spectrum. Are you really saying you’d rather your child die of a preventative disease than grow up to be like me?” The result is usually awkward silence, followed by a bunch of “oh, well, I didn’t mean YOU…you’re DIFFERENT than THEM…” talk. And what I hear in that is that the person speaking is not a safe person who I can trust. It’s awful.

                3. Flamingos*

                  “If I *was* autistic and heard a co-worker talking like that? I would hear “I’d rather my child be dead than be like you.””
                  As a person on the spectrum let me assure you, that is exactly the subtext I hear every time.
                  It is hurtful and makes me very sad and angry.

                4. Jaz*

                  I have ASD myself, and work with kids with autism, and I understand where you’re coming from. However, some of my coworkers are parents whose kids suffered long-term consequences from things like vaccine-related encephalitis. One woman’s child actually died from a reaction to a vaccination. Again, I’m a strong proponent of vaccines, but there are good, smart people out there grappling with some pretty legitimate negative feelings toward vaccination. It’s too loaded a topic for the workplace.

                5. MatKnifeNinja*

                  For grins and giggles…

                  Three family members of mine have Level III Autism.

                  All in their late 50s, early 60s. They aren’t in the same immediate family.

                  None of them received their immunizations until WAY after age 10.

                  It grinds my gears to hear that Autism is a fate worse than death.

                6. Gazebo Slayer*

                  @Tammy: As a fellow ASD person… you’re awesome! I wish more people said things like that. Make it personal. Make it uncomfortable.

              3. Mike C.*

                Why “both-sides” this issue? Lots of employers provide vaccinations on the worksite for the health and safety of their employees for instance, and that’s a perfectly legitimate and ethical thing for management to promote.

                You might as well say that discussing shellfish is off the table because someone suffered a bad reaction to it.

                1. Batgirl*

                  There’s a huge difference between management promoting something they offer and co-workers getting personal about each other’s health.

            2. Jennifer Juniper*

              In answer to your last question, Kettles, what makes you think they have common sense in the first place?

      2. Vanilla Nice*

        I think part of the trouble is that at least some anti-vaxxers are becoming increasingly vicious. I live in a town with quite a few anti-vaxxers, and I’ve heard them say terrible, cruel things to people who do vaccinate. It’s quite understandably infuriating to people who are dealing with health issues.

        That having been said, I agree the LW would do best to focus on what they can control in the situation, which is minimizing contact with the anti-vaxxers.

        1. Jasnah*

          That’s terrible. Honestly to me, the anti-vax movement is one of the most baffling and infuriating things in recent history, up there with climate science denial. Not sure what “rabid” indicates but I think OP can and should definitely speak out about whatever this coworker is saying at work.

          1. Perpal*

            It’s not really a new movement… just look up “bovinize jenner cartoon” – it’s a stance as old as vaccines.

            1. ElspethGC*

              The focus has *drastically* changed, though.

              The Victorian anti-vax movement was much more about government control of the bodies of the poor; working-class families who refused the smallpox vaccine were disproportionately punished compared to the upper-class families (some of them even aristocrats or MPs) who refused vaccines. To get the smallpox vaccine for free, as was the case for poor families, you had to go to the poorhouse for it to be administered, and those enforcing it were the same that enforced the unpopular poor-laws. Working-class inner-city folk in Britain have always been very good at organised protest against The Man, and anti-vax movements were an extension of that. It was a manifestation of everything the poor had against the wealthy who were trying to control their bodies and their families through poor-laws.

              For the upper-class anti-vaxxers, it was a combination of Enlightenment theories on government control and individuality, and religious thoughts on inserting pus from cowpox. (Because this wasn’t done via injection back then; you cut a # pattern on the baby’s arm and smeared it with pus. It was much more visceral, especially for parents who had no idea what was going on.) Concerns about infection were much more real, especially since the pus for your child’s vaccine was taken from a random child who had been vaccinated a week previously, and it really did lead to transmission of disease and, given the open wounds and living conditions, deaths from infection really did occur.

              Now? With new and sanitary methods of administering vaccines, the knowledge that compulsory vaccines really do work to eliminate disease, a much better understanding of how vaccines work, etc? They’ve changed the focus to “but autism!” Which, to me, is a *much* less convincing argument than the ones that the Victorian anti-vaxxers proposed.

              1. Perpal*

                I guess, seems pretty similar to me. Phobias about random “contaminants” in the vaccines (now chemicals that “lodge in the brain” or whatever), claims that schools/governments/bigpharma etc shouldn’t dictate what happens to bodies…

          2. blackcat*

            It’s part of a broader attitude of anti-intellectualism that goes hand in hand with support for authoritarianism.
            (And I will end there, for risk of getting into politics)

      3. Dust Bunny*

        No, a disagreement is when somebody tells me that decluttering will change my life and I’m in the “messiness is good for creativity” camp. We disagree, but neither of our positions has the potential to harm the other.

        That is so very not the case here.

      1. MCL*

        MamaSarah is replying to a person called Tiara Wearing Princess. She’s not calling her “Princess” sarcastically.

    2. Tiara Wearing Princess*

      It’s all good. I don’t think any offense was intended.

      For the record, I got a flu shot in September and caught the flu (B!) from my son and daughter in law last week.


    3. Samwise*

      yep, I’ve got a student right now missing several weeks of class from flu and now pneumonia.

  6. MamaSarah*

    I find LW’s letter to be confusing. There has to be an exposure, viremia- simply not getting a flu shot does not mean you are spreading the flu everywhere you go. Washing your hands and donning a mask can help reduce the likelihood of spreading disease to a compromised friend in the hospital. I’d focus on supporting my friend and less on what I can’t control.

    1. Mm*

      This was my thought too. I don’t agree with anti-vaxxers at all, but OP1 has some strange ideas about how viruses spread.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        My thoughts too. I just don’t get / don’t agree with their theory.

        Please don’t get me wrong; I get really ill very easily due to Underlying Reasons so I totally don’t want people carrying bugs near me, but if people carrying bugs work with my healthy resilient uninfected husband, I’m – well I’m not even aware of it let alone at risk. Unless he gets laid low and has loads of the bugs infecting him to share, I don’t think it’s an issue?

      2. Close Bracket*

        Viruses spread when enough people with low antibody levels come into contact with each other. OP’s unvaccinated coworkers along with anyone who didn’t have a strong antibody response to the vaccine create a path for a virus to spread from an infected person. That’s how OP’s friend got influenza in the first place–there was a path from an infected person to them. I think OP understands how that happened, which is why she is so angry at her unvaccinated coworkers.

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          True but the person who exposed the friend still had the flu at some point. Of course people can be contagious before they *know* they are ill but the are not completely asymptomatic. Viremia has symptoms – if viruses are replicating in your blood, you feel unwell – achy, chills, just badness. People who feel hearty are not usually ill.

          And while you can catch viruses from surfaces, humans aren’t surfaces. The LW is not going to shake hands with her coworker and transfer germs to her friend without being ill themselves.

          1. DaffyDuck*

            Actually, many germs can live for hours on surfaces (measles is easily 2 hours on surface or airspace). You do not have to have the disease yourself, just touching a contaminated surface and then shaking hands with your friend, can transfer germs. This can easily be done if anti-vaxx has a sick child at home, comes to work and touches the same door handle as the OP who is leaving to see her friend.
            Don’t forget that many diseases are most contagious PRIOR to symptoms showing up.

            1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

              I’m not sure you will find much data to support your point here. If you want to pursue it, I suggest you try.

              There could be some perfect storm of coincidences that make what you are suggesting possible but it is so unlikely as to worry about it is like worrying about being struck by lightening.

              And the LW can just wash her hands before visiting her friend! A common sense thing to do when you visit any immunocompromised person, regardless of what their coworkers do.

              1. Mike C.*

                What are you talking about? Measles is one of the most contagious diseases out there, and the two hour time and contagiousness before symptoms appear have been widely cited by teh CDC and other public health organizations.

          2. DaffyDuck*

            And people are definitely “surfaces,” your skin prevents germs from going directly into your bloodstream but it doesn’t have anti-bacterial properties that zap germs on contact.

            1. My Cabbages!!*

              Actually your skin does have several anti-microbial properties but that’s a bit of a derail.

          3. Observer*

            That’s not actually true, for some diseases at least. These diseases become communicable BEFORE symptoms show up.

            And, if you expect anyone to act as though they are contagious every time the feel achy or tired, you’re going to have to shut the world down, because people get achy and tired for sooooo many reasons, and communicable diseases are just one small percentage of that.

              1. Observer*

                So? It doesn’t change the fact that the OP could be contagious without being symptomatic.

          4. boop the first*

            Not to mention the fact that this friend is in the HOSPITAL where ill people naturally congregate. The idea that the hospital is somehow more germ-free than OP’s workspace is unlikely. Quite worrying, if true.

        2. kittymommy*

          This. I think she’s also concerned about passing along any other viruses, potentially more dangerous than the flu, from her co-workers to her friend.

      3. Marika*

        I got the impression that the issue is not that the co-worker didn’t get the flu shot (the friend is hospitalized due to a preventable flu, but that’s an example of just HOW immuno-compromised he is), but that the co-worker may be behind in other things, and may end up carrying them into the workplace.

        So, for example, my local health department just published an exposure notice for measles – seriously, my grocery store, my pharmacy, my kid’s favourite restaurant… They’re all on there for last week. Thankfully a) we weren’t present at any of the exposure windows and b) we’re all of us up to date with our shots. BUT, let’s say the undervaccinated co-worker picks up the measles that way… She could be shedding virus for DAYS before she’s symptomatic. And measles is long-lived – it can live on surfaces for 2 hours. That means that LW is at constant risk of picking up that infection, which they can transfer, even if they themselves do not get sick. (For the record: I have an immunocompromised nephew – and my brother is a biochemist; the mechanics of this are something the whole family lives with – thankfully our state has fairly strict vaccination rules).

        1. Asenath*

          Spreading a disease when you don’t know you’re exposed is always a danger – when I developed shingles, I told my doctor I’d visited a very sick friend just a day or so before symptoms appeared – on her advice, I confessed to my friend’s caregivers. In the event, it made no difference – my friend died of her existing illness before she could ever develop shingles or chicken pox, but I felt terrible. In this case, all OP can really do is to follow all medical precautions when visiting her friend. Wearing a mask at work – I think someone else pointed out the importance of getting the right kind of mask and wearing it properly – could also protect her.

          1. Aveline*

            There’s a difference between doing it accidentally on purpose. For example, the first day of the California bar exam, a classmate came up, hugged me asking for reassurance and then announced he’d had the flu. Not ok!

            I wouldn’t have expected him to stay home given his investment and I would have happily sat and tried to talk up his confidence, but if he knew he was contagious he should not of been touching other people. I would’ve preferred he were a surgical mask and take other precautions as well.

            Just because I could have caught flu from another participant didn’t excuse what he did. Knowingly did.

            For the next two days, I took those precautions with others and wore a mask. As it turns out, I hadn’t contracted anything.

            The point being, there’s a difference between putting someone at risk when you don’t know or reasonably couldn’t know, it’s quite another when you do or should.

            And external risks don’t mitigate that. Just because someone else might have flu doesn’t excuse an infected person from walking around hugging and kissing people without informing them first. Being in public while sick is often unavoidable. Being inconsiderate is,

            1. Dragoning*

              I think I would’ve throttled him for that if it wouldn’t have involved touching him again.

        2. Slartibartfast*

          Not just on surfaces. In the air. Like literally you can walk down an empty hallway that someone with measles walked down two hours ago, not touch a thing or see another person in the hallway, and catch measles. It’s that virulent.

          1. Autumn anon*

            Considering the Middle Ages had several plagues (the Black Death and its subsequent iterations, including the children’s plague) that are now preventable by vaccination, I’m not sure your comparison here carries quite the weight you intend.

            1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

              Oh yes? You’ve been vaccinated against yersinia pestis, the cause of Black Plague, a bacteria carried by rodents?

              You must live in a different world than I do. All vaccines are against viruses not bacteria.

              Black Plague, children’s plague were all bacterial infections.

              The difference is antibiotics, not vaccines. And I love vaccines.

              But my point is proven… our ignorance of disease is why we don’t react rationally. Eg, what’s a virus and what’s a bacteria.

              1. Dragoning*

                That’s actually not remotely true. There are many bacterial vaccinations, including things like tuberculosis and bacterial meningitis

              2. Aveline*

                Tetanus is a bacteria. As is tuberculosis, diphtheria, , pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type B, cholera, typhoid, and Streptococcus pneumoniae. All either have vaccines or have vaccines that are in testing stages.

                I have had vaccines for several of those. I assume you have as well.

                DH has been vaccinated for cholera b/c of some of the areas he has travelled to.

              3. Aveline*


                I’ve been vaccinated against bacteria. Assume you have as well.

                Tetanus is a big one for me. I work a lot in soil and in old buildings for one of my hobbies.

            2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

              I’m sorry maybe that was being unnecessarily snarky. Black Plague still exists – particularly in areas where people are impoverished and have to live in homes with high rodent populations. And there’s no vaccine for it but it is treatable with antibiotics.

              My point was that while I am very pro vaccine we as humans are bad at estimating risk. The LW if healthy and interacting with her seemingly healthy non vaccinated coworker is not likely to infect her friend. Obviously the LW should avoid her friend if she feels sick and avoid the CW if the coworker is sick.

              I personally think not vaccinated your kids is akin to child neglect. BUT that doesn’t mean we are allowed to threaten our coworkers with violence. And if the LW is only doing that in the privacy of her own head, she should consider that the person’s health she is most affecting is her own… with stress.

          2. Liz T*

            Right down that hallway, not catching measles because you’re immunized, then visiting someone else and giving them the measles is pretty low-probability, right? I mean OP could theoretically just make sure they leave at least 2 hours between being in the office and seeing this friend. (But then there might be measles germs on the subway or whatever.)

            I agree that everyone should be vaccinated, but since OP isn’t immuno-compromised or undervaccinated themselves, I think the danger here is being a bit overstated.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          This. Thank you. Prople should probably have a better understanding of how virii spread before dismissing those of us who understand it as overreacting.

        4. Aveline*

          All this is true, but makes no difference to whether the coworker is creating additional, unwarranted risk.

          I might get flu even if I don’t vaccinate, wash my hands, or avoid infected people.

          But it’s not overreacting for me to say that just because I might otherwise get it, I shouldn’t do those things.

          I don’t know if OP is overreacting or not. We don’t have enough facts in evidence. It may well be that OP is both overreacting and treating the coworker as a proxy for all antivaxxers and dumping everting on the coworker. It could be coworker has done specific things to cause this.

          I think having a discussion on transmission and risks is good, but I’d ask we be wary of being too unkind to OP and labeling her reaction without more.

          I would say her level of rage is worrisome. I think she might want some talk therapy with a friend and a good bottle of vino for that. I think perhaps her grief and her justifiable anger are intertwined. But I don’t know and I’m not going to make a firm pronouncement. Only ask OP to examine all this.

          1. Jasnah*

            This is where I stand too. I completely understand OP’s rage and think it’s justified to be angry at someone being dangerously, even maliciously stupid. But if I were OP, my therapist would say to ask myself what this feeling is trying to tell me. I would think my grief/hurt for my friend and my anger at this coworker and my anger at the state of the world and my feelings of helplessness are intertwined. But I can’t speak for OP, just saying that I understand the feelings and that’s what would be going on if it were me.

    2. Lily*

      yep, this seems more like an emotional/ “on principle” problem to me and not one of acute danger.

      OP1, you can’t pass anything along that you personally are vaccinated against (assuming your shots worked, you’re not a non-responder, etc.) if you normally wash your hands. More importantly, you can’t pass anything along that you, personally, aren’t sick with right in that moment.

      I know it’s enfuriating that your friend is ill right now, and I get that it feels that it would have been preventable, but let’s be honest, if they die from an infection while immunocompromized, it will very likely be one by opportunistic germs (the ones that live in your body and are harmless as long as your immune system works) and not of some vaccinable disease.

      1. Mongrel*

        “OP1, you can’t pass anything along that you personally are vaccinated against (assuming your shots worked, you’re not a non-responder, etc.) if you normally wash your hands. More importantly, you can’t pass anything along that you, personally, aren’t sick with right in that moment. ”

        Vaccines aren’t 100% so having had the vaccination isn’t a guarantee and it’s far too expensive to get everyone the tests to confirm\deny if it took.
        Washing hands is a useful ‘tool’ but, again, is not a guarantee. Measles can linger for hours on surfaces and other diseases may not be spread by touch.
        As for having the disease, many diseases are virulent (spreadable) before the host gets symptoms, or in rare cases it’s possible to be infected and spreading but have no symptoms (the eponymous Typhoid Mary –

      2. Not So NewReader*

        While I understand OP is upset because of her cohorts, I still think that staying away from sick friend is a good idea, regardless of other issues. I have worked with the public most of my life and I know first hand how easy it is to pick up stuff. And what is on me today, who the heck knows. I have had a few days where I came straight home and jumped in the shower and clothes went right into the washer because I was concerned about what I was seeing around me.

        I am saying this because I see your level of anger,OP, and I hope you can calm yourself in some small way. Perhaps telling yourself that you probably should not go see your friend anyway would be one possible inroad.
        Anger can go into stomach problems and heart problems over the long term. There are probably a bunch of other things that anger impacts. It might be helpful to recognize that anger could be a symptom of grief for your friend.
        Grief is not just for loss of a person, we can also grief the loss of a dear person’s health just as heavily if not even harder.
        My beloved aunt had MDS, as a side effect from chemo. This tears at the immune systems such that a paper cut could lead to death. She was a sitting duck and it was just a matter of time. I read at that time that MDS patients last up to 8 years after diagnosis. My aunt lasted 1.5 years. She could not stop getting pneumonia. The world grew a little dimmer the day she passed, OP. She was a light in the lives of many people. Yeah, I was pretty damn angry about the whole thing. It wasn’t fair on so many levels. Then I realized I was not doing my own health any favors by being so upset. And I thought about my aunt, she lived life in spite of her diagnosis, she took trips and did stuff with her small grandchildren.

        There is always a bigger picture as life seems to be a set of concentric stories, kind of like nesting bowls. Do what you can to keep you and your friend safe and healthy. Look for ways to be in contact with your friend in spite of circumstances. My aunt and I called or emailed each other twice a day. That might be too intense for some people, but we enjoyed it and it benefited both of us.

      3. last_codon*

        That is simply incorrect. There are several ways to pass diseases you’re vaccinated against: low vaccine efficacy rate, variations of the same virus, being an asymptomatic carrier, simple physical transmission…

    3. Susie Q*

      Also you can still get the flu even with the flu shot. I got the flu last year despite having gotten the flu shot. It depends on well the CDC guesses which strains of influenza are going to be prevalent. I still get the shot every year but it’s not perfect.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, but the flue vaccine is generally less effective than most other vaccines. It ranges from year to year – some years have a much higher level of effectiveness than others. It’s not surprising, really Most vaccines have YEARS to be tweaked and tested and tweaked and tested etc. to get to the point that you have a really high effectiveness rate. With the flu vaccine, you just can’t do it – you need to rejigger it EVERY year for the strains of that year. So you just don’t have the runway to get it “just right”. Still better than nothing, but totally not the same as all of the other vaccines.

          Link to the CDC to follow.

          1. Iris Eyes*

            You know it just occurred to me that the very reason that the flu strains that are mismatched to the virus are more widespread is because the vaccine is effectively stopping the strains that otherwise would have spread. Sorry but I had always questioned the effectiveness/efficiency of the flu vaccine but maybe the “proof” that its not working is in fact a good point that it IS working.

            Maybe that’s not what’s happening but it does seem like a plausible counter to people who feel like the flu vaccine in particular is a waste of time.

            1. Observer*

              Well, it’s not just that people are getting strains that are not matched to the vaccine – look at what the CDC has to say.

              I still don’t think that the vaccine is a waste of time, but it’s important to realize that it really is in a different league than other vaccines. And, OP, that also means that your friend could have been infected by someone who actually was vaccinated. You just can’t know.

              1. Kettles*

                Sure, but it doesn’t change the fact that her anti-vaxx co-workers could catch measles from their children and pass it on, and that that is not a hypothetical; it has happened multiple times.

                1. Kettles*

                  It does have to do with why OP is angry at her co-worker though. Not everything is about the flu.

            2. ramonaflowers89*

              Alright, virologist here to further expand on Observer’s points, so long post incoming:

              Note: I use epitopes interchangeably with antigenic sites – epitopes are the part of an antigen (antibody-generating substance) that an antibody attaches to, which allows the immune system to recognize the antigen.

              Yes, flu vaccines must be redone every year to account for the CDC’s and other flu watch organizations’ predictions on what the circulating strains will be. Since flu vaccine viruses are grown in embryonated chicken eggs, they need to make those predictions well in advance of actual flu season so scientists can make enough virus to satisfy vaccine dosage demands. Therefore, if those predictions are wrong, the flu vaccine is not as effective for that year. Thankfully, a cell-based flu vaccine called Flucelvax – meaning the vaccine virus was grown and isolated from cells – was approved by the CDC in 2016. Cell-based vaccines are much faster to produce, so we would be able to make predictions later – which would boost their accuracy – yet still make enough vaccine virus for demand. Plus, if we are confronted with a new pandemic strain like the 2009 swine flu, we would be able to make a vaccine for it more quickly. It will take a while to fully move away from egg-grown flu vaccines, so unless you got Flucelvax, your vaccine was made in eggs.

              (Also, growing vaccine virus in fertilized eggs could induce egg-adaptive mutations in the vaccine virus, which could affect how well the vaccine protects against circulating strains – e.g., we make antibodies to epitopes affected by egg-adaptive mutations, which means they will be less effective in recognizing a wild-type strain whose epitopes do not have these changes.)

              Okay, those are the logistical reasons why flu vaccines’ effectiveness varies. What about the science behind it?

              Flu undergoes two phenomena that complicate vaccine effectiveness – antigenic drift and antigenic shift. Drift is why we need to update vaccines every year. Shift is how we get pandemics.

              You create antibodies to strains you’re vaccinated with and thankfully these antibodies stick around for a while, but their protective effectiveness if you are reinfected with the same strain depends on antigenic drift. Flu viruses are really bad at replicating their genomes correctly – they make lots of mistakes, which in turn mutates various amino acids in their proteins. So at the beginning when there’s only a few mistakes, the epitopes still look very similar, so your antibodies can still recognize it. But then more changes happen – your antibodies can still recognize those sites, but only weakly now, so you do not have as much protection as before. Eventually, if enough amino acids in an antigenic site get changed, your antibodies may not recognize those sites at all anymore so now you can get re-infected with the same strain. It’s like trying to fit a round rod into a square hole in one of those kid toys. At first, the round rod fits perfectly in the round hole – you’re protected and good to go. Now the hole changes to an oval, so your rod can still fit, but you have to wiggle and jam it in there to work – you still have protection but not as much as before. Now the hole is a square, so your rod can’t fit at all – you no longer have protection.

              As long as a flu strain is circulating consistently in the human population, you’re going to have antigenic drift because it is undergoing selective pressure in that population, meaning that mutations that allow it to escape immune detection will be selected for as the virus continues replicating. Epitopes with the most exposure to the immune system will be what your immune system overwhelmingly makes antibodies to – and thus these sites will mutate faster due to the selective pressure of your immune system targeting them. Thus, your antibodies have a time limit on their effectiveness unless they so happen to target a stable antigenic site. (Everyone trying to find a universal flu vaccine is trying to find out how to make enough antibodies to antigenic sites on proteins that can’t mutate because they’re vital to a virion’s ability to infect and replicate. Unfortunately these sites are well-hidden from the immune system, so it’s very hard for the immune system to target them.). If a flu strain is taken out of the population so there is no selective pressure on antigenic sites, then your antibodies should still be able to recognize it if you were suddenly exposed to that strain again years later as long as your titers are still strong.

              Long story short: Antigenic drift is why we need yearly flu shots – we need to update our vaccines to include strains that have escaped previous immune responses due to antigenic drift. So to Susie Q’s response, she could have gotten a strain not included in the vaccine that she had no cross-protection against or she could have gotten an immune escapee variant of a strain included in the vaccine. So to Kettle’s response, the second possibility – that OP’s friend was infected with a vaccine strain variant that escaped previous immune responses – is probably what happened.

              Now onto antigenic shift. Shift is what we need to worry about.

              Flu’s genome is segmented, meaning it has 8 separate pieces of RNA that has all 11 of its proteins. If two strains of flu infect the same cell, the genomic segments can rearrange into a completely new strain, which we call antigenic shift. Antigenic shift is a big concern because you may not have any cross-protection from antibodies made against past flu strains that infected you. Sometimes you make antibodies that can recognize several strains because they were made to a common or similar antigenic sites. For example, say Strain A has a circle shape antigenic site on hemagglutinin, one of flu’s two surface proteins, that your body makes antibodies to. Now say Strain B has a triangle shape and Strain C has an oval shape at the same antigenic site. Now you’re infected with Strain C. Your antibodies to Strain A will probably recognize Strain C because the sites look similar, which would be cross-protection since antibodies to one strain are providing at least partial protection against a different strain.

              This cross-protection possibility is why I always recommend getting the vaccine every year – it can still potentially confer some protection against whatever strain you are infected with even if it is not a strain included in that vaccine formulation. This cross-protection would be the reason you might only get slightly sick for a few days instead of extremely ill for two weeks – your immune system already partially recognizes the strain and can engage immediately instead of having to make all antibodies from scratch.

              Now let’s say Strain A and B infect the same cell and rearrange to create a new Strain D, which inherited Strain B’s hemagglutinin gene with its triangle shape antigenic site. None of your previous antibodies to Strain A or C recognize D because D has a triangle when A and C had circles or ovals. Now your body has to make new Strain D antibodies to the triangle antigenic site from scratch, which means you get sick as viral replication outpaces your immune system’s ability to keep up for a while. The 2009 pandemic flu was a case of antigenic shift – four viruses, one from Eurasian swine, American swine, birds, and humans, rearranged to make the pandemic flu strain – and you saw how scary that was. We’re lucky it wasn’t as deadly as originally feared. Antigenic shift can create strains that can jump species barriers, have heightened virulence, and easy transmission – therefore, antigenic shift can easily wipe out any protection you have because none of your antibodies can recognize the new strain.

              Shift is mainly why we’re worried about H5 and H7 avian flus that infect humans every now and then. If they undergo a shift with a H1 or H3 strain, you could thereotically get a new virus that causes high mortality (inherited from H5/H7) and can easily spread through the human population (inherited from H1/H3) – the worst of both worlds. H5N1 avian flu has a mortality rate of >50% in humans, so if it gained the ability to easily transmit between humans, we would be extremely screwed.

              Source: I worked in a flu vaccine lab as an undergrad, working mainly with H5N1 and H1N1 strains, and did my masters on vaccine development for HSV-2.

              1. Jersey''s mom*

                An elegantly phrased scientific response. Thank you for taking the time to post this!

      1. Anononon*

        My dad got the flu this year, but because he had the shot, it was more like a bad cold, so he was very lucky.

    4. Iris Eyes*

      I think they are conflating two different issues.

      1. Their sick friend is very seriously ill. Solution: Wear protective gear when visiting said friend. Follow any guidelines that their doctor recommends.

      2. They work with a coworker who is proselytizing for health decisions that are based more in subjectivity than proven best practice. Solution: Anytime talking about aforementioned friend be sure to draw the line between increased danger and lack of vaccination of people around them, point out life and death consequences. Work to develop policies that unvaccinated individuals can’t come into the workplace if there is an outbreak in the area. Work to develop any other policies and practices that would reduce disease transmission because that’s just a good idea anyway. Work with your benefits department to ensure that adult vaccinations/boosters are covered. Suggest offering the flu shot at work if you don’t already.

  7. sacados*

    I would take AAM’s second suggestion and just quietly change the settings so your manager doesn’t see any of your info/anything you post, etc. You’ll still show up on her Friends list so unless she’s been actively reading/commenting on your posts she’s likely not to even notice the difference — at most she just might assume you haven’t posted anything lately.

    1. Jasnah*

      This. Unfollow, hide settings, pretend you haven’t posted anything lately. Then as soon as you leave the department/company/splash zone of her wrath, unfriend and block.

    2. Fran*

      I would do exactly as Alison suggested and simply unfriend the manager and then if asked, provide the excuse Alison wrote about separating work from personal life.

      1. sacados*

        That’s definitely an option too. It’s just, if OP’s manager is the kind of unreasonable person who would take an unfriending really personally/ if the OP is worried about it affecting their relationship, then the strict privacy settings option is slightly “safer”

      2. ECHM*

        Boss might be able to see if OP remains friends with co-workers (or hear from co-worker “Look what OP posted on Facebook!”), though, and that excuse would be less plausible.

        I vote for custom posts (all friends except Boss) and unfollowing Boss.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I vote for this, as well. If it’s uncomfortable to unfriend her, then do what I do with my boss—create a special “group” for said boss, and then set permissions to exclude boss from seeing 99.9% of what’s on your account or wall.

      1. Doug Judy*

        This is what I do as well. At my new job it seems that everyone is connected on Facebook. I never send requests but I get them occasionally from coworkers. They all seem like reasonable people, and I live in an area of the country where no one would think anything if there was a picture of someone drinking. I just make a separate group called “work” that if I felt like hiding a post I could easily do it. Most of my posts are innocuous, but there’s an easy option if I didn’t want them to see something.

    4. Bart on Film*

      This is much better advice than unfriending. Unfriending means you made a conscious choice to click on someone’s name, then click Unfriend and Confirm. There’s nothing ambiguous or subtle about that and when people try to play it off as casual, it never works. Of course people will be offended! At best the unfriended person keeps up a feigned ignorance out of a sense of courtesy.

      Cordon off the manager and occasionally post innocuous stuff that she can see. Yes it’s work but it’ll be much better for your career in the long run. Can you imagine a future employer calling someone you chose to unfriend for a reference for you?

      1. c-*

        As Alison sometimes says, if she would drag down a reference because she took offense at being blocked on social media (which people who understand boundaries don’t do), it’s questionable wether she’d give a good, quality reference either way.

        I’d go the hiding-without-blocking route if it made the OP’s life easier while they’re forced to mantain a relationship with their boss, though.

        1. Bart on Film*

          It may be questionable if the theoretical unfriending would bring a possible bad reference but it’s all but guaranteed if it definitely happens. Why take the chance?

          I just find all the cover stories for unfriending to be completely transparent and it bugs me when people deceive themselves into thinking anyone will actually believe their supposed reasoning. They won’t.

    5. Marion Ravenwood*

      Agreed. Don’t unfriend the boss – I think that would just make things worse – but do change your privacy settings so she can’t see things you don’t want her to see.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s become so common for people to “simplify their life by reducing their social media” that I see people post it on FB before their account goes dormant. Or dormant-to-me at least.
      I’d be more likely to remove a lot of people from my FB friendslist at once than trust the public/private settings. FB settings persist in weird ways – if I make one post public, I have to re-customize the next.

    7. FB-unfollower*

      This for sure. I have a few people that I don’t want to unfriend but I don’t want them seeing my posts. One of them is a relative who shares pictures of my children from my FB wall. I am not particularly close with this person, she didn’t ask and it happened several times. I feel bad unfriending her completely so I choose to handle it this way.

    8. Kesnit*

      I came here to say the same thing. I have multiple “friend”-groups on FB, and make a point to sort people. Just move your boss out of any groups and she won’t see anything. Or move her to a group that only sees innocuous things.

    9. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      I have a special “group” for older relatives and family friends for exactly that reason. The stuff I post for peers (memes, political stuff, allusions to my bisexuality) gets hidden from anyone who might be even the slightest bit offended by it (my hyper-conservative second cousins, for example). Every so often I post something that’s for all friends (pictures of puppies, general life updates) so they don’t figure it out.

    10. Smithy*

      I am also in agreement on this.

      I used to be Facebookfriends with a former professor who’s since retired and is very politically active online. She’d often posted about how she saw Facebook only as a tool of resistance and would unfriend people who did things like post photos of family or puppies. I’m not super active and had clearly been warned of her preferences. When it finally clicked I hadn’t her post in a while and noticed she’d unfriended me – it still stung a bit. She hasn’t taught me in nearly 15 years, she told her folllowers who she did and did not want as friends but this idea that a former professor found me unworthy was an aw shucks moment.

      If you know your boss is less trustworthy – I do think that the reality of unfriending is still unpredictable and might make this a bigger deal than it’d be worth.

    11. Belle of the Midwest*

      I agree. I haven’t had to change settings for any of the people I work with (or work for) but I have had to do it for certain extended family members (like the conservative ones who think every time I post a picture of a fun mixed drink on vacation I must be getting intoxicated so I get lectured-I’m over 60, people!)

    12. nonegiven*

      You can choose your posts be visible to ‘friends’ or to ‘friends except,’ then list everyone at work.

      If anyone says anything about not seeing your posts, just say you haven’t posted much or you are taking a break from so much FB. This is good for the computer FB, as long as you’ve unchecked the ‘story’ thing. IDK about messenger on the phone.

    13. nonymous*

      I choose this route with current co-workers b/c their friend request indicates that they are not someone who chooses to keep their social media separate from work. While I don’t feel any incentive to teach/explain my perspective, I don’t have to join in theirs.

    14. PJ*

      You can exclude the boss from most posts – you’d just need to remember to include her on a few innocuous things here and there. FB timelines can always use an extra cat video or two.

  8. Close Bracket*

    OP 4: You don’t need to unfriend her. Put her (and all your coworkers) on your restricted list and unfollow her.

    Or leave everything on your current facebook account as is, open a new one for friends and family only, and block all your coworkers from that account. That’s how I handle things.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      That’s how I’ve done it for years. Plus a secret group for me and a few friends where we can complain to each other about our families/spouses, etc.

      1. Jay*

        Ideally, the manager should make it clear that social media connections are optional. When I became a manager (internal promotion) I made a point to specifically say in a meeting that anyone I’m friends with social media that wants to unfriend me, etc. was free to do so, no hard feelings.

    2. Anon Anon Anon*

      The main problem with Restricted is that those people can still see anything that’s set to Public (the globe icon). So it’s a better option for some people than others. If you’re the kind of person who people sometimes tag in public posts, I would block anyone you don’t want contact with. Blocking is good because the person can’t easily tell if you did that or deleted your account; it looks pretty much the same. You’ll just drop off their radar.

    3. Beth*

      You can sort through your frriends and mark some as “Acquaintances”, or even sort Friends, Close Friends, Acquaintances. Then set your posting default to “Friends except Acquiantances”, and it will simply look as if you aren’t posting as much.

    4. Private One*

      I blocked all company management from my Facebook account. Far too many companies want to hold you professionally responsible for your personal views.

  9. Mm*

    I’m confused. Most adults have been vaccinated for childhood viruses regardless of their personal belief because their parents had them do it. Maybe they haven’t vaccinated their own kids and maybe they avoid getting a flu shot, but I have to imagine OPs coworkers got the standard vaccines most kids got in 70s/80s/90s during childhood before this craze began

    1. WS*

      LW1 – you can protect your friend by being up to date on all your own vaccines. You can determine this with a blood test if you’re not sure (especially if you’re in the born 1964-1991 age bracket – our measles vaccinations were single dose and needed to be two doses for lasting immunity) and for anything specific that is prevalent in your community, especially dangerous to your friend, or that wears off like the whooping cough vaccine.

      I was immunocompromised during cancer treatment and counted myself lucky to live in a rural farming area with an extremely high vaccination rate. As soon as I was recovered, I checked out my immunity and found that I was entirely vulnerable to measles due to my age bracket, despite my mother being very strict about our vaccinations, since she worked on an infant whooping cough ward as a young nurse and has never forgotten it. So even if you’re frustrated by your co-workers, there is something you personally can do.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        AH another member of the “bad batch of MMR” club. I’m pleased to hear that you also discovered the need to be checked before getting the disease, just like I did. Apparently measles went around my hometown during the summer when my dad was sick enough that I lived with my sister in another part of the state….I didn’t learn that until I heard “remember when” stories at HS reunion when measles was first starting to reappear. My doctor almost rolled his eyes at my insisting on getting titred…but a few days later I got the “please come in immediately we’ll fit you in” call.

        1. Kitryan*

          I’m in that age group and only just heard about the possible risk last month. It was the kick in the pants I needed to get my levels checked! Turns out I’m good on almost everything my doctor was willing to test for, including that. I feel like while nearly all the kids were being vaccinated as a matter of course these ‘childhood’ diseases were being kept in check and were unable to spread easily to adults whose immunity may have waned. It might reassure OP1 to get their levels checked (if they have not done so already) and to discuss w/their doctor other ways they might be able to reduce risks to their friend. Maybe they’ll be able to visit most safely later in the weekend after maximum time away from work or maybe they’ll be able to get solid information on whether masks will help and if so, how best to use them. And good for OP1 for their concern and care for their friend.

      2. JessiLib*

        Thank you for this comment! I had no idea the MMR shot could wear off (or that my shot in the 80s was from a crappy batch). You can bet your butt I’m going to have my doctor check my husband and my immunity levels at our next check-ups.

    2. SignalLost*

      Firstly, there have always been immunocompromised people who can’t get vaccinated. I am including babies in that geoup, because there are. Second, there have also always been antivaxxers; they just haven’t been common. Their children are often now adults, and their stories would curl your hair. Third, there are people like me, who got the MMR in the mid 80s, when for some reason, it wasn’t as effective – the vaccine itself was weaker for about three years. I figured out I’d gotten a booster before I went overseas, so I’m protected, but I figured that out when there was a measles outbreak at a place I used to work with a very large East African population. For about two decades, I was relying more on herd immunity than I’m comfortable with. So maybe “most adults” have been vaccinated, but there’s definitely a chance that an antivaxxer who got the same run of MMR as I did could be carrying it and not know – the government has made minimal effort to inform us that we aren’t as well covered as we thought. But regardless, “most adults” is not “all adults”, and someone who is immunocompromised needs more detaibty than “most”.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I have to get an MMR every few years because it just *goes away* as if I’d never had it. Not a booster mind you, the regular as if it was the first time ever vaccine. I keep a very tight reign on my stuff.

      2. blackcat*

        Yup. After I got the mumps, my doc tested to see how immune I was to measles and rubella, given that I, too, might have suffered from crappy 80s vaccines.
        Nope. Just the mumps failed. And that’s pretty common. It’s only 80-85% effective, which is pretty low for childhood vaccines. At that effectiveness, you need like an 98% vaccination rate to get herd immunity. And that’s exactly how the university I was at had a MASSIVE mumps outbreak–if you expose a couple of thousand vaccinated people to the mumps, a few hundred will get it. I think it was 4-500 people total (students, faculty, staff).

        1. ElspethGC*

          My university has a mumps outbreak right now! Both Nottingham unis have, actually. I had both of my doses as a child and my booster at secondary school less than ten years ago, so I *should* be okay… I think all of the outbreaks have been people who didn’t have all the shots. Only forty so far, although apparently there’s another 200 or so suspected cases. Not too bad, considering there’s over 70,000 students across the two unis.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What’s more likely is that the coworkers haven’t vaccinated their children, and now that coworker’s exposure risk is much higher. Herd immunity only works when the vast majority of the herd is vaccinated. If the herd’s vaccination rate is low, then an individual’s vaccination will not be enough to prevent getting ill or passing along a serious (and preventable) illness. It’s why so many folks who are vaccinated are still contracting measles each time there’s a measles outbreak from under-vaccination of children.

    4. Asenath*

      Some childhood vaccines wear off. I think it was the early measles vaccine that wore off when the children were in their late teens, and some of those children got measles then. Maybe the newer vaccines don’t have that problem, but not all vaccines produce lifetime protection.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Many vaccines do not last a lifetime. Influenza vaccine is annual. Shingles vaccine is for adults. Tetanus-diptheria is every 10 years. And sometimes there’s a bad batch that requires a new shot — I learned a few years ago that there had been a bad batch of measles-mumps-rubella in my age group, had my immunity checked and yup I needed a new vaccine. At that point I had _three_ immune-compromised people and two infants on the way in my immediate family, and I knew of one co-worker undergoing chemo. NO WAY was I not going to get that shot.
      And I brought my daughter with me so she saw that even adults benefit from someone holding their hand during vaccinations. ;) “Courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid…courage means you’re afraid and you do it anyway.” –Elizabeth Moon (misquoted I’m sure as this is from memory)

      1. Dragoning*

        Well, the influenza vaccine is annual because it vaccinates for different strains every time.

    6. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

      Anti-vaxxing has been a thing for as long as there have been vaccines. There’s a open letter by Roald Dahl urging people to have their children vaccinated against measles because his daughter died from it – he specifically mentions people who “refuse, either out of obstinacy or ignorance or fear, to allow their children to be immunised.” That was in 1988.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I mean, there are spouses of federal political appointees taking to Twitter to “bring back our childhood diseases.” I won’t go into my feelings about that, as they would violate Alison’s commenting rules.

    7. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      Generations can be shorter than we realize. I was born in 1963, which means I and my cohort were offered vaccines for a lot of things. That means there are people around my age in North America who don’t have the visceral knowledge of how dangerous measles and other childhood diseases can be–polio is something I read about, and the last wild case of smallpox was when I was in my early teens. Some of my cohort vaccinated their children only because it was a requirement for school admission; “we’re doing this to protect you” is a different message from “I guess we have to go to the clinic and get this done because the school district will ask for the paperwork.”

      That in turn gives us people born in the late 1980s-1990s who are having children, and when some of them think about vaccination they aren’t just thinking about ignorant scare stories, they’re thinking either “nobody I know got the measles, it’s not a problem anymore” (without thinking about why not) or “I didn’t have XYZ vaccine and I’m fine.” Yes, that’s survivorship bias (like “I didn’t wear a seatbelt and I’m OK”) but noticing a pattern doesn’t stop people from thinking that way.

  10. Lady Blerd*

    LW4: One less drastic option would be to have your manager as an acquaintance rather than a friend and have your settings set up so that everyone but your acquaintances see them, you can even make the filter specific to her. That said, after I defriended a direct report in a ill tempered moment, I no longer accept requests from colleagues or bosses.

  11. Caitlin*

    I am immunocompromised myself, and have found that there’s no reasoning with people who are truly against vaccinations. (Note: I am speaking more generally towards those who eschew the childhood series of shots.) For every ardent anti-vaxxer you tell about why immunodeficiency, they will tell you a story about someone they know who is vaccine injured or some such.

    My advice is to just keep all interactions with these colleagues purely professional… short, direct, and then walk away. You won’t be able to FaceTime your friend to keep him company if you’re in jail for strangling someone

    1. Savannnah*

      I *have* a vaccine injury and I’m very pro-vaccine so it’s all just real ridiculous and dangerous.

    2. Lynca*

      Yeah I have never been able to get through to any militant anti-vaxxer. It’s literally like talking to a brick wall. I care for my immunocompromised mother and an infant. My mother has been fairly sick for most of her life- she had rubella and measles twice as a kid in the pre-vaccine days. Her health is even more precarious now. But I feel like you do need to speak up when they start promoting really dangerous ideas. You’re not going to change their mind but at least if I say something they know I’m not okay with this and other people will know it’s something you can challenge.

      I had a wonderfully dumb argument with a militant anti-vaxxer recently due to the measles outbreaks. She was pushing false information that getting measles gives you lifetime immunity and should be advocating for people to intentionally get measles because it’s ‘not that bad’. So yeah- I don’t have a lot of tolerance for letting that stand.

      1. Jasnah*

        I think you should follow her logic to its natural conclusion. Full-blown measles is really bad, so why don’t we just give people a little measles, or a dead measles virus, so they can get that immunity. We can have doctors give this out in injection form and oh wait…

    3. Public Health Nerd*

      I agree. Otherwise Amazing Former Coworker had not ever had an mmr prior to joining our team in a health care setting. She got the required shots, but I know it was a big decision for her. I think that focusing on what is actually required for your work and trying to let the rest go might be your best bet. It sounds like she’s not breaking company rules by being unvaccinated, so the only thing you can do is raise the issue with your infection control office (since you said you are in the healthcare field) as a policy that needs updating. Day to day, if she starts talking about anti vaccine topics, I think you can let her know you disagree but you don’t want to discuss it. You’re allowed to have boundaries, but try to wait until you can say so without going all Hulk Smash on her.

    4. ScienceLady*

      That’s the maddening challenge about science deniers (first-tier: anti-vaccination, second-tier: climate change deniers). Science, facts, reason, and logic do not work on them. Typically, a science denier has determined a source of “truth” (often a science misinformation site, a social media group, or perhaps themselves), and then seek out information only aligning with their viewpoint. It’s sometimes a science identity problem (science is an academic or lofty endeavor that is separate from them and not something they can or will engage in). Science education geared towards correcting science misinformation, or worse, disinformation is hard work.

    5. Magenta Sky*

      For those who believe in peer reviewed science, the current research indicates that the more you try to convince someone on the subject, the more firmly they will continue to believe it. And the more factually based your arguments are, the more firmly they’ll believe it.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        The times I’ve seen this in other contexts it was emotional. They won’t let go of the belief because then the world won’t make sense and they’ll fall into the abyss.

  12. Flash Bristow*

    OP4: I have a few Facebook post options where it goes to “all friends except x” which I use when I want to exclude a relative. Next time I post, it’ll default to that. So it’s not like every time I post I need to remember to exclude someone. Give it a go!

    1. BookishMiss*

      This is what do to block co-workers from seeing anything but cute animal videos on my Facebook. Works like a charm.

    2. Delta Delta*

      That’s what I do, too. I had a few people on my “don’t need to see this list.” That came back around, though, when I was in a group setting where some people had been able to see a certain post and others didn’t. One person said, “hey, I saw on FB you went to _____” and one of the not-seers got her back up about the fact she couldn’t see it. I had to play dumb and say I have no idea how the algorithm works. On the plus side, that person then unfriended me, and I don’t especially care.

      1. Ashie*

        Yeah I’m a big fan of “I don’t know man, Facebook keeps changing things” and leaving it at that.

      2. nonegiven*

        Sometimes getting unfriended on Facebook is magical.
        It’s like the trash took itself out.

  13. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1, if you haven’t already done so, get all your vaccinations up to date. That’s another way to help yourself and your friend – and your idiot co-workers as well.

  14. Dan*


    About the only thing you can do here (at work anyway) is accept that our bodies are our own, and absent a court order, it’s up to each of us to decide what gets put into our bodies. It’s not up for discussion. I know if I were asked about this topic at work, I’d consider the question as socially acceptable as getting asked how much money I make. In the US, the later is just not a question brought up in polite society — and you won’t get an answer from me on either.

    I work in a science based field too… I happen to be in a field that a lot of academics and researchers like to publish in. PhDs from well respected institutions overfit models (and don’t know it), have insufficient data, publish conclusions that are flat out wrong, and in other ways are writing papers that are barely worth the paper its written on, let alone the labor costs in doing the research. And yes, I’ve got a paper accepted to an upcoming industry conference discussing better ways to do business in my field, and am in the process of submitting a patent application on this same work.

    All that’s to say that I’m ok with people who reject certain studies or understand the limitations of modern day science. For that matter, they might believe every body is different. Along those lines, do I accept the science that says smoking is bad for my health? Yes, on average. But can science tell me when I will die if I take up smoking? No. All they can say is “on average”. I may or may not be average; in fact, odds are, I’m not.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is becoming derailing, so I’m going to ask people to leave this here and stop replying in this thread. (I’m posting this after there are already a bunch of replies, but I’m changing the time stamp so it appears right under Dan’s original comment.)

    2. Kettles*

      The science on vaccines is in and the results are reputable, peer reviewed and have been repeatedly proven. They’re also proven by the way we don’t have smallpox anymore, and how most children survive to adulthood nowadays. You’re right in that OP cannot force her co-worker to vaccinate – that doesn’t mean she has to be nice or respectful to someone who is wilfully endangering the lives of others out of misplaced narcissism.

      1. Dan*

        In the workplace, she has to be as nice, civil, and respectful to her coworkers as professionalism dictates.

        1. Kettles*

          Why? This co-worker is routinely forcing her views on other people and actively endangering other people’s lives. In my view she shouldn’t be in the workplace period – same as we don’t allow people in wearing bombs or under the influence of substances, or waving knives around.

          1. Jasnah*

            But whether this person is in the workplace or not is not up to OP. So being rude to this person is just going to make OP look bad, not the coworker.

            Also I think you’re overstating the imminent nature of the danger with that comparison to weapons and I think it hurts your argument. This is more like someone coming into work sick, knowingly, and not caring who gets infected. It’s not good but it doesn’t merit a 911 call.

            1. Kettles*

              There’s a difference between being actively rude and being ‘nice’, which is what Dan was advocating. Nobody who is wilfully and deliberately endangering the lives of others deserves ‘nice’.

              It’s not like ‘coming into work sick’. It’s deliberately putting other humans in danger.

              Accidentally catching a cold is one thing. Deliberately engaging in behaviours likely to cause death and serious harm to others is what this co-worker is doing. This isn’t abstract either; the return of preventable diseases due to these fanatics has literally killed people.

            2. RUKiddingMe*

              Not getting vaccinated, making a deliberate choice not to *is* knowing and not caring.

              Because actual science and ~60 years worth of measles vaccinations resulted in the almost 100% eradication in the US.

              Until that is anti-vaxxers started endangering *everyone else.*

          2. Aveline*

            Yes, the old “be nice” canard. Funny how often that correlates with keeping the status quo or protecting the transgressors from consequences.

            That’s right up there with stating that someone has a valid point, but they are saying it too angrily or aggressively. So the conversation is shifted from the substance to the complainant’s behavior. And the substance gets forgotten and the complainant gets silenced.

            No one should be rude at work. But we are under no obligation to okay nice with people who harm us, be it directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally.

            “Be nice” is a tool of oppression. “Be kind” is another matter. There is a difference.

            Nice is overrated and often dangerous.

          3. Autumnheart*

            To be fair, professionalism doesn’t dictate a very high level of niceness or civility. As long as you aren’t a jerk about it, you can basically completely ignore a person except when you’re obligated to interact, and you’d still be within the boundaries of professionalism. You don’t have to include them socially.

    3. Not A Manager*

      But what’s your actual point here? LW isn’t suggesting forcibly vaccinating her colleague. And she’s not interrogating her colleague either. Apparently the colleague is open about her views and choices, as are many anti-vaxxers.

      You seem to have more intellectual tolerance for science skeptics than some people do, and maybe for anti-vaxxers in particular. But the LW thinks (with some reason) that her co-worker is creating a general public health risk, and is also endangering LW’s particular friend.

      1. Dan*

        My jury is out on the anti-vaxxers, at least at the moment. For me, it’s more of a personal liberties issue, and at what point intrusions should be forced on one’s body that one doesn’t want. So to me, the question is whether the public health implications outweigh one’s individual right. And for that matter, while one may (or may not) have the right to choose what happens to one’s body, how much that right extends to one’s children — that’s a separate issue.

        Nonetheless, if the anti-vaxxers were to keep going on and on about it at work, they’d drive me nuts. Heck, dead horse beaters in general drive me nuts.

        Point being, I think the OP is over the top. WAY over the top. OP would be well served if she could find a way to co-exist with people with different views on things than she does. I mean, “how do I handle my rage” is a rather strong phrase, especially in the workplace. If you ask me, the subtext really is “I would like to get my coworkers forcibly vaccinated whether they like it or not. Can I?” (To which the answer’s no.) The reality is, people tend to get more worked up over issues that they have a close connection to than those they don’t. And then they get frustrated because they want others to be as enlightened as they are, and it just doesn’t work that way.

        1. Not A Manager*

          “The reality is, people tend to get more worked up over issues that they have a close connection to than those they don’t.”

          Ya think?

          1. stump*

            I mean, you know, obviously LW’s just Too Close to the issue to see it rationally. /s

            Seriously though, I REALLY hope that’s not where you were going with that.

        2. Kettles*

          The jury isn’t out. Multiple juries across the planet have decided anti vaxxers are wrong. This dangerous fad has already cost lives too – it’s not a hypothetical. We already regulate what people can put into their bodies, in order to protect others. People shouldn’t be allowed to endanger others in the cause of ‘personal liberty’.

          And she’s not being over the top at all. People like this co-worker kill people. They could kill her friend. It’s not over the top to be angry at people who are wilfully endangering the lives of people you love.

          1. Aveline*

            There is actually more consensus on vaccines among highly accomplished scientists than anything else I can think of.

            I know Nobel prize winners, Cal Tech and MIT profs, people who have cured once incurable dresses, people who set man to the moon and beyond, etc. I know of a few who think the climate change science is poorly understood by the public and our understanding of global warming is wrong. I have never met a single person among the group who is not an enthusiast for vaccines. It’s universal among the scientific elite. Perhaps the only thing I can think of that is so.

            I was once at a party with such folk just after a baby died in San Diego bc an antivaxxer took her kid with an outbreak into a contained waiting room. Not a single person there felt anything other than shock st how unscientific and illogical antivaxxers can be.

            Dan is trying to wrap this in a scientific method argument/appeal to authority as a scientist but he’s really wanting to argue libertarianism. That’s a different argument and one he should stick to bc it’s better than the scientific authority one.

            Any elite scientist or anyone whose spent any time with them know the scientific argument is settled as far as they are concerned. To say otherwise is to misunderstand or misuse the point of the scientific method.

            The only legitimate argument is individual bodily autonomy v public safety.

            1. Kettles*

              Agreed, although in some respects I’d also call that argument settled; we’ve already banned drunk driving, mandated seatbelts and prohibited certain substances because they are known to be harmful to public safety.

            2. blackcat*

              I mean, I, a scientist, thought that roughly 5 years ago, our current understanding of climate science was wrong. Whatever I read, it seemed that models were too conservative, underestimating the likely impacts of climate change. Only recently have *clouds* been included in modeling, for instance. And models generally assume constant changes (and rates of changes. Basically, there’s smoothness forced in the first and second derivatives), but sudden changes (ex sudden ice shelf collapse) have always seemed possible to me. The modeling is incredibly complex from a mathematical perspective, so I understand why those limitations exit–if I was programming it, I’m sure I’d put in the same limitations. But I don’t think people did a good enough job saying “If anything, my model underestimates warming.”

              So basically, I was a climate skeptic… thinking that climate change was likely going to be worse than people were thinking. And more and more data unfortunately is showing that what we thought was an upper bound is likely a lower bound. Much of the middle east will be *uninhabitable* before the end of the century.

              I understand how science works. I have a healthy skepticism of particular studies and results–particularly stuff published in Nature and Science, which go to flashy results which are often wrong. But when the vast, vast majority of the science all lands on the same result, it needs to be accepted, particularly when the consequences of ignoring it are so severe. I find it difficult to talk to anti-science people, because they cling so strongly to the one study that supports their beliefs. AND THAT IS NOT HOW SCIENCE WORKS. And, yo, I have a PhD in a science field. And I also publish in philosophy of science. Yet the amount of people who assume that they know more about how science works baffles me. I do not know more about how medicine works than MDs. I know how little I know about medical science!

              Will smoking definitely kill a particular individual? No. But do we, as a society, have the right to make smoking a rather difficult thing to do, via regulation? Yes.
              So with vaccinations, I strongly support unvaccinated people basically being shunned. I want their to be consequences for deciding that one’s “personal liberty” is worth risking the health of others. Just like how I find it completely socially acceptable to be refuse to be “nice” to bigots. If someone’s beliefs make society a worse place, I don’t care about protecting their feelings. After all, they don’t care about my wellbeing.

              1. Aveline*

                You sound like most people I know. I don’t want to derail on climate change. So I’ll leave it there.

                I also know some antivaxxers who believe this way. Once saw one argue with a woman with multiple degrees from MIT, Caltech, and Oxford in related scientific fields. No matter how logical she was, the man would not budge from his adherence to the one person who proved him right. Her area of expertise was epidemiology, contagious diseases, and use of emerging technologies (such as gene editing) to combat the same. So, not like she was an expert or anything. He had a undergrad science degree from a third-tier state school that he had never used.

                1. blackcat*

                  I’ve talked to my husband about this (also a science PhD), and it seems people (of both genders) will simply stop talking to him rather than continue to argue. Whereas my female friends (including one with a MPH and PhD in epidemiology, like your friend) get people arguing with them much more.

                  It’s anti-intellectualism meets mansplaining.

                2. Aveline*


                  I get we are all trying to be inclusive, but nothing in what blackcat said indicate donly men and women existed.

                  Talking about men , then talking about women doesn’t preclude other genders.

                  In fact, I’m sure blackcat and I would agree that anyone who doesn’t fit into the assumed gender binary forced on people get it worse.

                3. blackcat*

                  I will admit that the language of “both genders” is unnecessarily exclusive and I shouldn’t have used it. I have only talked to scientists who identify as one gender or the other about this phenomenon (not all cis, but all male or female identified, no genderqueer/other identifying folks).

                  That said, I have yet to meet someone who was not cis and yet was an anti-science ‘splainer, so I think I unintentionally blamed the right two genders for the ‘splaining.

                4. Janie*

                  @Aveline Is there a use of the word “both” that doesn’t mean two? Because I’ve never heard one.

              2. Michaela Westen*

                “Yet the amount of people who assume that they know more about how science works baffles me.”
                I might be able to shed some light on that. I have a lot of allergies which were not managed and mostly not diagnosed growing up.
                As an adult I diagnosed most of them myself because the doctors I’d seen had not. I learned to manage them myself because doctors didn’t help me.
                So I feel I do know more about allergies than most doctors. My allergist and maybe a few others, who are smart and stay up-to-date, are the exceptions. But the establishment didn’t and still doesn’t teach everything that’s known to doctors in training, and they don’t know how to help me.
                When people have had experiences like this, or when they see multiple studies and articles that apparently contradict each other, they decide figuring it out themselves is a better option. Better than being paralyzed with anxiety about what to do and getting conflicting guidance from the authorities.

        3. stump*

          Your personal liberties end where the safety of other people and their ability to, you know, continue being alive begin. That’s why it’s illegal to drive drunk, even if Drunk You (or hell, even Hypothetical Sober You) might think it’s a super cool and fun thing to do. That’s why Iceland is banning unvaccinated visitors from entering the country and why other countries are banning unvaccinated children from schools.

          I’m not going to belabor the point of “Leik, are vaccines good and stuff?” because the science says YES and continues to say YES (and Google and Google Scholar exist for free to search for supporting documentation on that). The anti-vax movement is just the Flat Earth Movement for educated, middle class white people who think the rules don’t apply to them. (And yes, there have been studies, anti-vaxxers are A Demographic. I’m also That Demographic. Don’t @ me.) It’s a conspiracy theory. People are denying blatant reality because want to feel like they Know Better than everyone else, like they’re smarter and have more control over their lives unlike the complacent sheeple who blithely accept government lies. While it’s funny to watch a flat earther’s crappy rocket launching to prove the Earth is flat fall over, it’s not so funny when there are measles outbreaks popping up all over the US and people are dying from easily preventable diseases that were close to being eradicated in this country.

          1. Autumn anon*

            ‘Your personal liberties end where the safety of other people and their ability to, you know, continue being alive begin.’

            I agree wholeheartedly with your entire comment and especially this bit. Anti-vaxxers expose other people to unnecessary danger and kill people.

            Would it be possible for the OP to go to their manager and say they’re uncomfortable working with this person due to their anti-vaccination stance because they have an immunocompromised friend in the hospital and they’d like to be able to visit them without the fear of giving them any more preventable diseases and seeing what their manager can do about the close work OP has to do with this coworker? Maybe there’s a way to do things differently for a little bit until the friend is recovered and out of hospital? Of course, this might not be advisable, and OP would probably know that best, but it might be something to think about?

          2. Oxford Comma*

            Exactly. This is a matter of public health and your personal liberties do not apply here.

          3. Grapey*

            +1 and a big heart to this comment.

            I saw an antivaxxer say “Nothing good comes of this, the gov’t just wants control” about the recent NY proposed law and I’m all “The POINT is control of communicable diseases. How is “control” a downside?”

        4. Mesmer*

          I wonder if your personal liberty also includes drunk driving? Because, you know, should public health implications of not being crushed by your car outweigh your individual right to get wasted and smash into someone?

        5. Kettles*

          And people with no connection to an issue often (falsely) assume that because a problem does not affect them personally, it is not a problem.

        6. Quandong*

          I disagree with your reading of the subtext from this letter and your assertion that ‘how do I handle my rage’ is a strong phrase, especially in the workplace.

          Lots of people feel rage, including in the workplace, for different reasons. OP’s feelings are valid and it’s insulting to try and delegitimize them.

        7. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

          So should we get rid of the FDA and repeal all laws regarding food, and go back to letting companies add chalk to bread, color candies with lead sugar and sell ground spices that are cut with sawdust and iron oxide to save money? We could let the people who run those companies have the individual freedom to decide if they want to do that!

        8. Nobody*

          Have you ever heard of something called the Paradox of Tolerance? It’s a pretty simple concept that states a society that is tolerant of those who are intolerant will be taken over by the intolerant. In other words, when people tolerate those who push ideas, concepts, and actions that are by their nature intolerant of others then the intolerant will suppress tolerance. Therefore, a society must not be tolerant of the intolerant, it’s the only way to preserve tolerance.

          One side pushes vaccinations based upon scientific rigor, countless studies, many years of research, and the general desire to eradicate these deadly diseases from society.

          The other side screams en masse at any doctors who dare to use social media to suggest people get vaccinations, try to force the law to let them subject harm on other people’s children, and have absolutely no scientific evidence to fall back on, only feelings.

          To preserve tolerance, society must not tolerate the intolerant. The anti-vaccination crowd must be suppressed, silenced, shamed, and de-platformed from the public view, otherwise they will happily do so to the ones they consider their enemies. There is one correct side to this fight, the side that wants to help people, and they aren’t it. That is the Paradox of Tolerance, and it’s something everyone ought to understand.

        9. ThursdaysGeek*

          I have a close family member who is an anti-vaxxer, and … while I disagree, I can see some of his points.

          One big one is the right to have autonomy in your own body, the “my body, my choice” argument. And while I think vaccines, motorcycle helmets, seatbelts, etc do save lives, that our choices do affect others, I can still understand the desire to have autonomy of person.

          1. Frustrated by Stupidity*

            Which is why so-called recreational drugs should be legal. Bodily autonomy that doesn’t even put others at risk for dread diseases. Imagine that.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            If someone chooses not to use a seatbelt or motorcycle helmet, the only person they’re endangering is themself. (and maybe the person sitting in front of them).
            Anti-vaxxers put everyone around them in danger.
            Your statement is a false equivalence.

          3. Electric Eel*

            Fine, if you don’t live anywhere near other people and won’t be making choices that affect them too.

    4. Geoffrey B*

      “it’s up to each of us to decide what gets put into our bodies” – if only this were true. Unfortunately, an immunocompromised person who’s sharing an office with an anti-vaxxer DOESN’T get that choice.

      As long as co-workers are breathing the same air, the person who chooses not to get vaccinated has made a decision about putting germs into other people’s bodies.

      1. Aveline*

        This is neither legally nor morally true and never has been. It’s not an absolute either way.

        I think Dan is arguing that he wants a libertarian society, but that’s not what we have. It’s never existed.

        You can’t put heroin in your body and go fly a plane. You can’t inject yourself with typhoid and be out in public.

        People can have medications injected without consent if they are unconscious, unable to consent because of age or mental incapacity, or if they have a mental illness and need the medication to gain capacity. People can be restrained against there wishes.

        Full bodily autonomy is a fiction.

        The issue is about where the line should be. Not whether or not there is a line.

      1. Anonandon*

        Would you say, “forced-birth aplogism” on Ask a Manager?”

        This is a workplace blog, right?

        Everyone seems really into OP1’s righteous rage, but I find it uncomfortable.

        Also, OP, are these coworkers talking about this repeatedly at work? Not cool either.

        1. Kettles*

          I mean… well yeah, if someone was routinely going into anti-choice rants on here I probably would.

          I’m not sure why you’re uncomfortable. OP is having to work with a person who is routinely proselytising about her belief that it’s ok endanger the lives of other people. People OP cares about. Of course she’s angry.

      2. Aveline*

        I actually read it as libertarianism/individual civil liberties + my personal definition of rationality and logic. That may be inadvertently pro-plague. But I don’t think anyone who has that POV would think of themselves that way.

        So many of the arguments about individual bodily autonomy no matter what end up excusing individual action that leads to mass damage, but the mass damage isn’t actually desired.

        1. Aveline*

          Not “my” own personal definition, but the definition of whomever makes that argument. Setting oneself up as the expert and arbiter of what is rational and reasonable.

          Sorry if that was poorly worded.

    5. ScienceLady*

      Dan, I disagree with you respectfully and am copying some parts of my answer to another commenter above.
      Refusing to vaccinate is one of the most actively harmful actions a typical (non-murdering, non-arsoning) adult can do. Endorse flat Earth theory? Fine. It makes my job in science education more challenging, but I can swallow my annoyance and robustly counter this with students easily. Litter? Still not great, of course, but altruism can overcome your negative actions. However, refusal to vaccinate can actually, actively kill someone else. Repeating – actual people, humans, like all of us, can die when individuals do not vaccinate (Google “PNAS Vaccination Saves Lives”).

      I am deeply troubled by your statement that you choose to selectively engage in science (“I’m ok with people who reject certain studies or understand the limitations of modern day science”). That is frankly the most un-scientific thing you can do. Science is a collection of facts and established observations. We judge the merit of a claim by the body of substantial evidence. You cannot cherry-pick to fit your belief system – that’s called a belief, and not science.

      My friend, I might ask if you believe that the planet Jupiter exists. My guess is that you do. The scientific evidence for the benefit and safety of vaccines is akin to that of Jupiter existing – it is comprehensive, substantial, and as close as science gets to infallible. There are no, zero, nada, etc. peer-reviewed studies which refute the safety and benefit of vaccines. Unfortunately, anti-vaxxers are typically accepting of science or fact. They have deemed a source to be true (most often a website or a social media group) and accept that as their source of truth, rather than science or fact. This is the great danger, my commenter friend. Decisions to not vaccinate against preventable diseases cause actual harm – death – and facts do not help mitigate this danger. That is the harm.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is becoming derailing, so I’m going to ask people to leave this here and stop replying in this thread. I’m putting this up at the top of this thread too so hopefully this is seen.

  15. mark132*

    I have to admit I would struggle to remain civil in LW1’s case. It would be almost impossible for me to not “correct” them when spreading misinformation.

    1. LilyP*

      I think you absolutely should correct anyone who spreads misinformation about vaccines at work! (assuming you can do so without cursing, etc). If they don’t like that they can stop bringing it up.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        A simple, regular, monotonous, ‘That is incorrect.’ ‘Actual data tells us that is wrong.’ ‘That is incorrect’

        Be boring, but adamant, and don’t get sucked into *why* it’s wrong, because they’ll just keep moving the goalposts. Same for climate change deniers.

        Anyone who puts forth a theory that dissents from commonly accepted science (say for example, Lamarckian evolution, to use something less emotionally loaded) has the responsibility to find evidence to support their theory. They can present their evidence, but if it’s wrong (eg, giraffe neck stretching is passed on), the audience is free to say ‘it’s wrong’ without being obligated to prove it’s wrong – burden of proof is on the person asserting the dissenting theory. If it’s right (eg, epigenetics, which *I* think counts as Lamarckian evolution), then it can be rewarding to engage.

        The best thing about science is that it’s a process to help us evaluate reality, and dissent is evaluated. Dissent on vaccines and climate change and evolution and the roundness of the earth have all been considered. They just didn’t have the proof needed to change the theories.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          The best thing about science is that it’s a process to help us evaluate reality, and dissent is evaluated.

          I want this on a t-shirt.

  16. CatCat*

    #3, government ethics can be such a quagmire and confusing for employees to navigate. I strongly encourage you to use your high level position to advocate for including training for employees. This is to protect EVERYONE: the employees, the, city, and the taxpayers.

    The example seems like just the kind if thing that could fly in the private sector and not the public sector. Or that an employee may have heard “incidental” use is okay without grasping what that actually looks like. Well meaning people can easily accidentally misstep in this area.

    1. AnonyNurse*

      I wonder if your agency has a “de minimus” rule that could use clarification? I work in state government and the ways people interpret what acceptable use are vary dramatically. I can see a well intentioned person consider using a non-consumable device for personal use to be ethical (it will just be sitting there doing nothing, it isn’t like it can get used up). Reframing it, as you mention, to focus on a benefit not everyone has may be beneficial. Additionally, liability would get very wonky if an off duty employee were injured using work equipment for personal use.

      And lastly, appearance matters. There is a perception that government employees are lazy, overpaid, with perks not available in the private sector, just watching the clock tick til we can claim our fat pensions. Encourage your colleague to consider perception beyond intent out of respect for your agency.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This kind of training & reminder can also be done on the cheap — my Fortune100 employer has mandatory computer-based training programs. Write once…translate & record once for each language… roll out globally on a regular schedule.

      1. LQ*

        Yeah, I was a little surprised to hear it called expensive. The data privacy training and ethics trainings we do are all elearnings because they get repeated every year for every staff person, plus any time there are new hires. There is an upfront investment in doing that but it saves a bundle and is very reusable. (My favorite were the “cool” versions from the 80s, those were some fantastic data security videos, I didn’t find any ethics videos unfortunately.)
        You can do things like supplement it with in person training for new folks or rotate through having different groups do an in person annually. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of people are going to tune out, after the 3-4th viewing and ideally you’d change them up a bit, but that’s much easier than the initial creation.
        I’d guess there is an off the shelf version of ethics training you could buy much fairly cheaply as well.

        1. inoffensive nickname*

          Our ethics training and subsequent quiz to pass in order to prove we followed the training was so poorly written that it looked like the board of trustees was exempt from ethics. We’re part of state government (higher education) and we used to have classified ads on our intranet, but someone decided that was use of “state resources for personal gain” so they put a stop to it after 50+ years (obviously not all intranet – previously was a weekly memo to all staff).

        2. kittymommy*

          The expense is totally going to depend on the size of the organization and the level of training that the state requires. I work for a local municipality and I work directly for our elected officials. They are required yearly training per state law and there are minimum requirements that the training must adhere to. The training that we do, on-line and approved by the state, is appx. $100 per person per year. We also have 1500-1600 employees. If we adhere the employees to the same training that’s $160,000. There is no way that’s going to happen.

          So yeah, I can see how this might be cost-prohibitive for his municipality. I cannot begin to imagine the amount of public comment that we would get for this expense.

          1. OP3*

            OP3 here. We pay for the elected officials to receive ethics training, and then record the training session to show it later to the folks who can’t make the “live” session. We can show the recording to the employees at no extra cost (well, besides the one-hour lost work time while they’re watching it). I’m just not sure how I could suggest this to my bosses in a way that makes it clear it is worth the time to take the workers off their regular jobs to watch the session, without explaining how I came to be aware that it’s needed. That’s why I wrote to Alison.

            1. LQ*

              “I’ve been thinking about the ethics training we offer and I think that ethics in government is critical and demonstrating that throughout the entire (branch) would be good. We could have everyone watch the ethics training that the elected officials receive annually.”

              I really don’t think you need a Reason. And if you want one, wait until you find a news article about an ethics concern in government and cite that. It’ll take about 10 minutes. We just say “We don’t want to end up on Channel 5.” and no one would question that.

          2. doreen*

            I am wondering what exactly this online training is – but I have to assume it’s from an outside vendor and your municipality is paying licensing fees or something. Because it certainly doesn’t have to be that expensive – much of the online training provided by my state to all employees (38K in my agency alone) is a video and/or interactive version of the same training given in the past by live instructors , developed by the same state employees who developed the lesson plans in the past. And while I certainly won’t say there’s no cost to it, it’s a fixed cost rather than a cost per person – since the training website existed before the mandatory training was added to it , the cost to provide any particular training is the same whether it’s provided to 100 employees or 100K

      2. CatCat*

        Yeah, I’m in government and our training is online and required every 2 years. There are different modules and the person taking the training just takes the modules applicable to them. If there’s a section only applicable to some roles, it will say something like, “Take Module 2 if you are in role X. If you are not in role X, skip to Module 3.”

        It’s not the most engaging training, but there are little quizzes along the way with illustrative examples that are helpful.

    3. RPCV*

      I agree. I was surprised to hear that the elected officials get ethics training and not the employees. I don’t think it would even cost that much, assuming the gov’t has access to some kind of e-learning platform, it wouldn’t be too hard to spin up a module on the ethics rules.

      It’s not like they have to have a 2-day offsite or anything for this–can be done online or even over a conference call type thing.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        In some places, civil service employees get the the ethics training as well. Last time I had it was at the SW Cluster Meeting. The rules are strict, and strict for multiple reasons.

    4. Parenthetically*

      Came here looking for this exact comment. My husband has worked in the same field for his entire career, both in the public and private sectors. He brings gear home from work fairly often at the encouragement of his boss so he can familiarize himself with it, and in fact brought their schmick new 360 camera from work on our family vacation. I definitely vote for approaching this from an education/training perspective rather than assuming this guy is knowingly violating ethics rules. It wouldn’t be at all intuitive to me or, I assume, a lot of people exactly where the line is regarding personal use of that kind of equipment.

      It honestly surprised me that OP3 phrased it the way she did — “my neighbor offered to violate ethics rules for me.” It seems like such a worst-case-scenario reading of the situation. From her summary, he did no such thing. His actions might functionally violate ethics rules, but he didn’t say, “Hey, wink wink, I’ll ‘borrow’ the leaf blower for the season and ‘forget’ to check it out in the inventory, maybe it’ll just get marked as broken and you can have a nice top-of-the-line leaf blower, wink wink.”

      1. JOdiRoady*

        Agreed, it is common for maintenance/mechanics to bring home equipment for personal use and return it the next business day. This is one of the perks of this kind of work. I don’t see it as a scandal. The parks department may have their own rules guiding this kind of usage that the OP is not aware of. If it comes up again, I’d say something like, “Are you sure that is okay? My training said that we couldn’t use city equipment for personal use?” and then listen to the answer. If you get a wink-wink answer, followed by the steps of the cover up, then I’d be concerned. But you may get an response that shows that it is approved use.

      2. OP3*

        OP3 here. I didn’t write the title, only the question. I said that I wasn’t sure if he was aware that it was a violation; my impression was that he was just trying to be helpful. I think that if he knew it was wrong, he would not have suggested it to me, considering my position with the city. I asked if I had an obligation to say anything to either him or his supervisor – to me it’s a “not my circus, not my monkeys” situation, but now that he’s said it to me, I don’t want to see him get in trouble for doing stuff like this in the future, and I also don’t want to know about it if he is.

        Also, there’s the issue of “public perception” of things like this, it perpetuates the stereotype of bad public employees. We once had an issue where someone complained about seeing a city vehicle parked at a strip club during the day – the fire inspector was there doing the annual routine inspection that’s done at all businesses, a legitimate purpose; but to the person driving by, it looked nefarious.

        1. Anon govt workerbee*

          Yeah, the perception thing is real. The people at my work who inspect things like restaurant grease traps regularly generate complaints about “lazy city employees hanging at restaurants instead of working”. Its so bad that if you’re out in the field and have to go to the bathroom you have to go find a city facility to use instead of just popping into the nearest business who will let you use their facilities because otherwise people might think you’re not working (which actually wastes more time to create the perception of not wasting time… ugh).
          My work does in-house ethics training for all new employees. It doesn’t have to be all that long or complicated. You can tell based on these comments that different organizations have different levels of what is ok for incidental personal use so it makes sense that all employees are informed of your city’s policies on that kind of thing so everyone is on the same page. I think you can make that suggestion without raising any red flags that you’ve seen anything bad using Alison’s language. Good luck!

          1. Cp*

            The idea that tbis would be fine in the private sector is what struck me too. I regularly use the company van for errands my personal vehicle isnt suited for, and have been offered to use it when my car was in the shop. Seems like the kind of thing that isnt an issue without a pattern of abuse.

          2. Free Meerkats*

            Back when my assignment was grease removal system inspection, we had a stoppage downstream of a strip club that served food, so had a trap. This was before cell phones, so I stopped at a convenience store, called my boss and let him know I would be parking the city rig outside the club for an inspection. Sure enough, even though I had the beacons spinning while I was in there, he got a call from the Mayor’s office that there was a city vehicle at the strip club at lunch time.

            Thanks for jogging the memory. I still flash on that inspection whenever I hear “Stray Cat Strut.”

        2. nonymous*

          Just went over this issue with the Mayor’s office yesterday. Our local PD is encouraged to park in high-crime areas as a deterrent while doing paperwork, eating meals, etc. So it can look like there is always a cop car at the strip mall next to the residential neighborhood with a lot of calls (the strip mall is also a source of a lot of calls). Last night one of my neighbors accused the strip mall of “stealing taxpayer dollars”.

  17. Kettles*

    LW1 – return awkwardness to sender. Wear a mask. Wash your hands thoroughly and obviously. Be polite and cold. If they start in on their anti vaccine nonsense, shut them down. If your boss objects, point out that these co-workers are both proselytising at work and being a clear and present danger to others around them.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Unless LW’s colleague also doesn’t believe in germ theory, she shouldn’t be shocked that LW is doing a lot of washing up around her.

      1. Kettles*

        From what I’ve seen of these people, she will insist that OP is being absurd! That she is healthier than everyone around her and that OP is being foolish. It’s the evil people who vaccinate that are the problem, because vaccines shed!

        Sarcasm. Also verbatim quotes.

  18. Dan*

    #1 Re: “Is it possible for you to simply say that you cannot share space with her because of the risk to an immunocompromised loved one?”

    I gotta admit, I find this question fascinating. If OP was the one with the immunocompromised system, we’d be talking about the ADA and the protections it may offer the OP, and rightfully so. But the ADA doesn’t apply, even though the protections the OP is seeking may be similar.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Unless OP is a caretaker, in which case some state laws provide protection under their equivalent of the federal ADA.

    2. Not Me*

      The ADA or state equivalent still wouldn’t force an acceptable change even if the OP were covered. It’s not reasonable to either make this person vaccinate themselves or separate the work spaces to the point of airborne contagion (the flu, etc) being stopped.

      The anti-vaxxer has the same right to control her body that the OP does. There is very little an employer could do in a situation like this that would be considered reasonable.

    3. Batgirl*

      It could be something people will work on with OP even though they don’t have to.
      The OP’s manager would very likely be amenable to at least considering it; even the co-workers depending on what kind of anti-vaxxers they are. If they are simply ranters who just love to get up in arms, maybe not.
      But if they just genuinely think it’s better for their health not to be vaccinated, they are probably all for alternative methods like avoiding contact with sick people when asked to.

  19. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

    You can soft block on FB. “Soft blocking” is quickly blocking-then-unblocking someone. What this does in effect is makes them unfollow you and you them without the permanent and detectable (and thus likely to enrage) extra step of a full block.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      Oooooh, I will have to try this. I have a whole bunch of people that it has been difficult to unfriend.

    2. a1*

      I just put them in the Restricted group. This means they only see things I post with a Public audience setting, and since I 99% of the time select the audience to be “Friends” that means they see almost nothing. I also keeps me from seeing anything they post in my feeds.

  20. Diamond*

    #4 – either just quietly unfriend her or you can do what I did which is put her on ‘restricted’ – it means she is still your friend but doesn’t actually see anything you post that the general public wouldn’t see. Go on her page and on the ‘friend’ button click the down-arrow and choose ‘add to a list’ then choose ‘restricted’. Also unfollow her so her stuff doesn’t come up in your newsfeed.

  21. Shoes On My Cat*

    OP#1: I’m with you all the way and completely empathize on the desire to shake fillings loose! (My great grandpa was Deaf from either mumps or measles in utero. These outbreaks are not that many generations from today. WTF!) Anyway, regarding your friend, ask! Email his do for if at all possible and explain the situation. He/she may just ask you to shower between work and a visit. Remember, hospital staff don’t live in a vacuum so they must have protocols. As for interacting with this/these people, follow Allison’s advice!

    1. BelleMorte*

      The majority of deaf people I know that are not genetically deaf were a result of rubella during pregnancy, scarlet fever, meningitis, measles, and mumps. As I am deaf myself (meningitis), I know a LOT of them. These are not old people either.

  22. Richard*

    LW3 This was obviously a trap set by an ethics vigilante to root out corruption in city government. Congratulations, you didn’t fall into it!

  23. Daisy*

    2: Wouldn’t it be a good idea to start looking around though? The 2-year mark seems a reasonable time to move up if you’ve got the qualifications for the higher title and pay. If it’s basically the same work, staying here a lot longer seems to be holding yourself back unnecessarily.

    1. Gerald*

      Agreed. The boss isn’t talking about internal advancement so there may not be many opportunities. I could easily see a situation where the group has mostly younger employees, the boss wants them to succeed, and starts providing occasional suggestions for better jobs after they have some experience. I have seen this in STEM fields, where women are a minority and good managers encourage minority (women, disabled, vis.mins) staff.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      LW specifically says the last few jobs were short term, and they’re looking for a longer stay in this one.

      I’d actually say that to my manager, along with just how long I’m thinking for that longer stay. Though, LW2: multiple positions within the same company are often perceived as one lump, so if you spent 2 years at current position then 2 years at similar position but higher level, most employers would look at that as a 4-year ‘job.’ If any of those higher positions are likely to be available in your company, the conversation with your boss could include a pathway to them.

      1. First-time poster*

        LW2 here: Thanks for the thoughts! I would love to have the higher position at my current company but I’m not sure of the chances of that happening–it’s a pretty small staff (only 7 full time employees) and we’re part of a city government so it’s harder to make big budget changes. I have also been wondering if this is her way of telling me that the change in title just isn’t going to happen (she has mentioned it being something she wants).
        And maybe 2 years is a decent amount of time to stay at one place but it feels short to me.

      2. Daisy*

        But it doesn’t seem to me like a good place to take that longer stay- in, what sounds like, a first job in the field, when she has a qualification that usually brings higher pay. Seems very arbitrary and just leaving money on the table for no good reason. If she starts applying for stuff and employers are balking then maybe think again, but I think it’ll be perfectly obvious why she wants to move up at this point.
        (Depending on the field, it might even look bad if she leaves it a couple of years, that she didn’t get an appropriate position sooner.)

  24. jcarnall*

    LW4: You could offer a family-related excuse – “At a family get-together we talked about Facebook and we found we all agreed we’d feel more comfortable sharing family news if we limited our Facebook-friends to social contacts, no work contacts”.

    If your boss has *lots* of Facebook “friends”, though, she really may not notice you’re gone for quite a while and you could just slip it under the radar – and if she does notice months later you could say “oh yes, that was quite a while ago” – and then use the family-related excuse. If someone in your family’s had a baby between now and then, say they weren’t comfortable sharing baby photos until everybody’s friends-list had been made a bit more restricted. Of course you can make quite subtle filters on FB but she may not know that and there’s no reason you should know that and your relative-with-a-baby can be *said* not to know that, if it comes up.

    If I were you, I’d feel a lot more comfortable de-friending her than filtering her. Until you get another job, don’t need her for a reference, and can block her. She sounds awful.

  25. Thaleia*

    #1: U G H. I’m so sorry. Antivaxxers are like ants at a picnic these days. Have you double checked with your friend and his doctors, though? I know this seems obvious, but it’s possible that your risk assessment of the situation is not in line with theirs, and his docs would be fine with you visiting. Assuming you’re right (and sadly you probably are), do try to set up a Skype or FaceTime call with your friend! At least then he doesn’t have to suffer as much because of your irresponsible colleagues.

    Also, I think you should start brutally changing the subject every time your co-workers bring up their anti-vaccine views. Make it as uncomfortably obvious as possible without being rude. (Okay, lbr, I would happily be rude about it, but that’s not the AAM way.) They’re perfectly aware that they’re doing the equivalent of bringing up politics at Thanksgiving. Disincentivize that by not engaging.

  26. AnonymousNurse*

    #1: I am totally pro-vax and I totally understand your position. Heck I got the flu shot and I am just finishing up recovering from Influenza-A myself.
    I have no advice in scripts (I think Alison’s advice is great), but thought i’d offer a hospital perspective and encourage you that it is completely possible to see your friend. As a hospital nurse, I can tell you most flu patients are in some form of isolation. All hospital staff and visitors must wear a mask and possibly a special gown to enter the room. Generally, if you practice good hand hygiene (washing hands/hand gel) and wear the proper protective equipment (located outside the room, just ask the assigned nurse to help you), everyone is protected as best they can be. I understand your concern on visiting your friend, but just ask your friend if it’s ok as long as you maintain isolation. I promise you, you won’t be walking into that hospital room without protection for both him and yourself. And obviously don’t go if you have signs/symptoms, but if you feel fine and don’t have any symptoms, its ok!

        1. Zephy*

          Probably. OP would need to use the PPE to see their immunocompromised friend regardless. If OP is carrying germs that put Friend at risk, they could have picked them up anywhere, because presumably OP can’t just teleport from their office to Friend’s hospital room.

  27. Tom*

    I have to ask though – OP1 – you work in a science based field.
    How on earth do these anti-science / pro-disease people even fit in that culture.
    Anti-vaxxers are very vocal in their beliefs – and are also not really pro-science because of ‘big pharma’ etc.

    I would equate them with religious fanatics – and from my point of view – maybe even as terrorists.
    (Given that ‘they’ prefer me and my son dead, due to the fact we`re both fully vaccinated, and both on the autistic spectrum – which as you know is way worse than death, right. – and i`m being sarcastic here folks!)

    Thankfully, for me it`s not an issue, but i would not be able to keep a moderately respectful working relationship with people who believe i should better be dead.

    1. Kettles*

      I don’t think terrorist is a stretch, and I find it baffling to liken it to coming into work sick. This nonsense has directly led to thousands of completely preventable deaths.

    2. wittyrepartee*

      I work in public health and had to shut down a coworker who was making antivaxx-light noises. *Head explodes*

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      Cognitive dissonance is a surprisingly intense thing. Fear is powerful.

      They may also be unaware of the real status of the research. My parents are both biologists, and I can read bio-science technical papers. I had no question that my kid would be vaxxed until I started reading the advice books while pregnant. Dr. Sears, a VERY prominent advice writer, suggested a ‘modified vax schedule,’ quoting Wakefield. This was the first time I’d heard there was even a question, so I looked for why he would suggest this. This was before Wakefield’s study was withdrawn, before Deer’s work was widely known, and I couldn’t find a copy of the actual paper. When I asked my pediatrician (youngish Indian female) about Sear’s modified schedule (not even about Wakefield!) at the 1mo visit, she made a face, handed me a bland ‘vaccines are safe’ sheet and left the room. She wouldn’t even see my kid in the future, we got switched to an older white male. (And I understand why, she can’t know whether I’d get… passionate… about the issue, and I’m physically much larger than she is, plus older white male = perception of more authority.)

      On my own, I found Deer’s work, and Wakefield’s financial interest, small data set and cherry picked data. My kid was vaccinated on schedule. He’ll get the flu vaccine anytime that non-egg cultivated ones are available (allergies), and the HPV vaccine.

      But I had to wade through a *lot* of misinformation to get there, some of it from widely trusted people (Sears). I still see doctors and pharmacists on-line pushing no vax or modified schedule, because there’s money to be made from that position. The science is clear, but it can be hard to get to the actual science.

      1. NHB*

        I’m not at all an anti-vaxxer but I don’t understand why doctors won’t work with patients that want a modified schedule. Unfortunately, many of these people, if they don’t get the modified schedule, will just go to no vaccines at all. I think a modified schedule is better than no vaccines if that is the only two choices for people so entrenched in their ways. My friend did a slightly modified schedule because her baby has some unpleasant side effects from vaccines. Instead of giving her say 8 in one day, she wanted to do 2 in one week, 2 several weeks later, etc. until all 8 were done. She was willing to pay out of pocket if insurance wouldn’t cover the extra visits. She had to doctor shop to find someone willing to do it. Isn’t that worse?

        1. Kettles*

          Because ‘modified’ vaccine schedules are almost as bad as skipping vaccines altogether. The vaccine schedule was designed around preventing when kids are most at risk of disease, and delaying that schedule puts the immuno-compromised, elderly and infants at risk of serious harm.

          Plus the schedule is also designed to be safe for the babies and toddlers; studies have shown that the risk of febrile seizure increases when the schedule is delayed.

          Sears is a dangerous quack.

      2. Genny*

        I’ve also noticed that people who don’t work in the field don’t realize when findings/terminology/best practices/etc. have advanced. I mean, just think of all the jokes made about global cooling to “invalidate” climate change.

    4. evie from the mummy*

      I’m a medical librarian with a focus in consumer health. It’s literally my job to educate people on things like this – and I still have co-workers who spew antivaxx nonsense. And they’re allowed to because my state has a Religious Freedom act and someone how vaccines fall under this.

  28. Sleeplesskj*

    #4: are you on Linked In? I’d just quietly unfriendly her on FB and connect with her on LinkedIn in you haven’t already. Then I’d the question comes up, just say you’re keeping D.B. for family and non-work friends and LI is for your professional relationships.

  29. AnotherFed*

    OP #1–I feel you on this. One year one of my coworkers came in with a terrible cold/flu, and he’s notorious for his poor hygiene anyway. He’s a senior fed employee and had tons of sick leave banked but refused to take any time off. At that time we had one employee with a high-risk pregnancy, two employees who had pregnant partners and me. I planned to go home for the holidays to see my dad who had just had a bone marrow transplant and was immunocompromised. If I had gotten sick I would not have been able to see him and even if I had gotten sick and gotten better but not had enough time in between recovery and visit I also couldn’t have seen him. It could have put him in the hospital or even killed him. When this coworker was actually confronted, politely, by a few coworkers he made a comment dismissing their concerns about how if people really wanted to see health problems they should visit other countries or something (he had been deployed as a military reservist and is also not given to great tact or cultural awareness). A bunch of people got sick but I was able to avoid it and managed to go home. The beauty of it was that this employee kept complaining that he got sick from his wife who was a nurse and she got sick because her coworkers kept coming in while they were sick. I don’t know how I would’ve/could’ve handled the situation if it had been a permanent anti-vax situation. I was furious at the time and had an incredibly hard time interacting with him because of his selfishness

  30. Rebecca*

    #1 – hopefully your coworker has been vaccinated, but that doesn’t mean her children have, so she could carry germs with her to spread disease and not show symptoms. For the OP – you said you work closely with this person? Can you ask to be reassigned based on you not wanting to accidentally carry an infectious disease to a compromised person?

    I remember my Dad telling me when he graduated from high school in 1952, polio was a real issue. People couldn’t congregate publicly, pools closed in the summer, people were sick, paralyzed, died, or worse, ended up in an iron lung. One of his classmates had been accepted to nursing school, but she died from polio that summer. He said people were thrilled to be able to get the vaccine when they were developed. I had both the Sabin and Salk vaccines when I was a child. My mother was an RN and kept exact vaccine records for me, so I had every vaccine recommended.

    My opinion is that we are too far removed from the horrors of what these diseases can cause. It’s not just a few spots and itching or misery for a few days, these diseases can maim and kill. My mother’s nursing school book on infectious disease looks like something out of a horror movie, illustrations of how diseases manifest, things that we never even think of today.

    People have the choice to not vaccinate. But when their choices affect other people, like here, where we have had several children with whooping cough sent home from school, and older adults in the area catch it and are hospitalized, with danger of death, that’s a problem.

    1. annakarina1*

      One of my aunts, who is in her seventies, had polio as a child, and she recovered, though still gets some pains now and then. Knowing that people who had polio are senior-aged now doesn’t make it feel so far removed, especially for them.

      1. Zephy*

        There is still a handful of people that use iron lungs in the US today. It’s a real problem, because since we eradicated polio for a minute there, nobody needed them anymore. So, nobody makes them anymore, and therefore nobody makes spare parts for them anymore. And people that know how to fix iron lungs when they do break are hard to come by.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        One of my elderly neighbors had post-polio syndrome, which does cause pain and other symptoms.

  31. HL Holdings*

    LW4: Do NOT send an email announcing your intentions. It honestly seems a little self- absorbed. Every time I’ve seen or received a proclamation like that it has been an immediate eye roll situation. If you want to unfriend or restrict your Facebook just do it. No need to make a big deal about it.

    1. LGC*

      I can see why she’d consider it in this case though – her boss is a jerk. Most people don’t keep count of who friends and defriends them (except for close friends and family), but the supervisor might be an exception to that.

      You’re right on the general perception, though.

      1. valentine*

        You can’t win with an unreasonable person, so you may as well please yourself. I would skip the bit about a future when they’re not working together, lest the manage think that means OP4 wants to leave.

    2. Ananas Bananes*

      I left FB in October. I posted a note about it simply because I had been VERY active and didn’t wish to raise any concerns by vanishing without trace.

  32. Ginger*

    #1- I would share with your boss what’s going on in Rockland County, NY and Temple University in Philadelphia. Unvaccaninated children are being banned from public places due to how contagious their outbreak is and since vaccination levels are low her immunity is virtually gone.

    You coworkers are perpetuating dangerous public health practices. More people need to be held to task. If they dont want to vaccinate, fine. But you dont get to put the rest of us at risk.

    1. valentine*

      Do they have to submit vaccine records to gain entry?

      Wasn’t there a letter here about a guy who made a fake vaccine record and enrolled his child in school?

  33. Thankful for AAM*

    About the Facebook boss, even thought I teach classes in how to use FB, when anyone asks me why I ignored a friend request or why we are not friends, I just say, I dont seem to know how that part works, or idk, FB must have changed something, or a variant.

    I get that the boss in this case might push harder but I wanted to put it out there that even an expert can use ignorance as a shield.

  34. Person of Interest*

    #3 – It would be worth advocating for all employees to undergo ethics training. In my state, this is required for electeds, appointees, and employees, and the training is an online module so once established, it doesn’t require a huge investment of time or resources to get everyone trained. In the meantime I think it’s okay to say to your neighbor that you don’t want to use city resources for personal use – make it about you, but it’s clear that you don’t approve of that sort of thing so he won’t offer again.

  35. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I was in your situation once. Turns out *my manager* was job-hunting because didn’t like the direction the company was taking. She was simply forwarding me things she encountered that would be better for me than for her. Yes she thought I might be job-hunting — but it wasn’t because I was bad at my job. It was because I was good enough she knew I could do better.

    1. Doughnuts or oatmeal*

      My husband did this when he realized that the company was going down hill and his employees were most likely going to be on the 1st or 2nd set of lay offs. While he was searching himself. He couldn’t tell his employees why he was sending them and referring them to people just that he thought it would be a better opportunity for them.

  36. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    Perhaps you could use this as an opportunity to ask for a title change and/or pay increase at your current workplace?

    You say you are already doing the higher level work. Perhaps your boss could advocate for a title change to reflect your actual responsibilities. Maybe even a pay raise as well but if you have the title, you will be in a better position to look for another job in the future (next year or two).

    Sounds like your boss recognizes your value so the job forwards should be a good opening to talk to her about promotion in your current position.

    1. LW2*

      I like this way of looking at it. I’m just hoping it has more to do with that than the fact that she can’t do anything about a title change/pay increase (we are part of a city government)!

      Sounds like a conversation is in order….

  37. WellRed*

    No. 3. We had a small scandal here recently when a neighbor filmed another neighbor using a city plow to clear his own driveway. Your instincts are right. Also, please rethink leaf blowers in general. They are air and noise polluting.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      That’s where I thought the question was headed: leaf blowers are intrinsically wasteful and a nuisance!

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      They are also a tool that extends people’s ability to take care of their own lawn / space as we get older. A lot of ‘conveniences’ that are getting dinged, like straws and pre-peeled oranges, improve the quality of life for people with physical challenges. Now, ‘consider electric’, whole different recommendation.

    3. NotMyRealName*

      My battery operated leaf blower is not any louder than the neighbor’s snow blower. (That’s what we use it for primarily)

  38. A_non*

    For OP1 – I understand your general irritation with anti-vaxxers, but I personally don’t feel this level of rage is warranted towards people who choose not to get the flu vaccine. Measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio vaccines…no brainers. But flu? Not so much. Having personally had allergic reactions to the vaccine (hives), I don’t feel it’s a safe thing for me to do annually for an illness that I will very likely survive (and have survived) without lasting effects.

    I think you’re feeling understandably helpless and scared for your friend, and it’s easy to channel that anger towards a coworker who represents something you hate. But in all honesty, your friend could have picked up the flu from a vaccinated person who got sick anyway, or from going to treatments, or a hundred other possibilities, since his immune system is compromised. I truly hope your friend pulls through and recovers. My mom is a 10+ year Hodgkin’s survivor, and it’s one of the most treatable form of lymphoma.

    1. Janie*

      Between me getting hives and someone ELSE who is immuno compromised or elderly or a baby dying… I’d take the hives.

      1. A_non*

        Many allergic reactions increase in intensity with multiple exposures. First exposure, hives; second exposure, anaphylaxis. Also, hives sound like a minor annoyance until you have a bad case…in reality, they’re weeks of inescapable misery.

        The point is, choosing not to get a flu shot is not the same as being a rabid anti-vaxxer, and OP’s coworker is not personally to blame for her friend’s illness.

        1. Janie*

          I’ve had hives, thanks.

          You said, “it’s a safe thing for me to do annually for an illness that I will very likely survive (and have survived) without lasting effects.”

          YOU may survive flu just fine. That doesn’t mean everyone will, and you ARE putting others at risk.

  39. Adlib*

    OP #1’s comment made me chuckle: I want to grab this woman by the throat and shake her fillings out while I call her stupid.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      Too much physical contact. Shove them in a canon and shoot them to the sun with all the rest of the trash.

  40. nnn*

    Does anyone have a moment to explain to my medically-ignorant self why LW#1’s own vaccinations wouldn’t protect her immuno-compromised friend from her co-worker’s germs? I always thought the way it works is if the germs reached a vaccinated person, the vaccine will make their immune system kill the germs. So then they don’t have a disease to pass on to anyone else.

    1. Kettles*

      In short, every person’s immune system is different: some people won’t respond to the antigens in a vaccine and therefore won’t become immune. Some vaccines wear off and need to be boosted; and some vaccines are more effective than others, and no vaccine is 100%, although the polio vaccine comes close. If OP’s immune system, say, just didn’t respond as well to one of the vaccines she could catch the disease. This is why herd immunity is so important – it’s supposed to provide overlapping protection.

      1. 8DaysAWeek*

        Very true. And until I was titered a few years ago, I had no idea that a routine vaccine I had as a teenager was almost totally out of my system and not effective. I had to receive the whole series again to be protected. I was told by the nurse, as you mentioned, that some vaccines don’t “stick” for everyone and you have no way of knowing unless you are titered. But all the other shots I had were still at a high enough level in my system.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Additionally, if co-worker (gonna call her Jenny) gets sick and the virus gets inside LW, there’s a period where the virus is live in LW while LW’s immune system is fighting it off. Vaccines give your immune system a head start, preparing the specific antibodies to fight – they don’t magically create a barrier so that the virus doesn’t enter your system.

        If I recall the terms correctly, this is called a latency period. During the latency period, LW may be shedding viruses. The amount of shedded virus is lower in vaccinated people, but not 0 .

        This is why it’s not just the flu vaccine in question. If Jenny’s kids get measles or chicken pox, *Jenny* could be shedding virus while Jenny’s vaccinated self fights off a full infection.

        BTW – you can not get sick from virus shedded from a vaccination – those don’t have full, live viruses. This is an actual anti-vax myth, but it doesn’t work that way. Live, contagious viruses shed live, contagious viruses; vaccinations use dead virus pieces that don’t replicate.

    2. LCL*

      Because the bacteria or viruses of the things we vaccinate against are airborne. They can survive for sometime outside of the human body. So if a person with contagion coughs or sneezes and some particles land on fully vaccinated LW, LW can still carry live critters that will cause disease back to her friend. If any of the critters get inside LW, LWs vaccine prompted immune system will kill them, but that won’t do anything to kill the ones hitchhiking on LW’s sleeve or shoes.

    3. anonagain*

      Herd immunity is a benefit of vaccination that wasn’t covered at all when I was in school. Basically if everyone around you gets vaccinated, there’s no one to catch the disease from.

      That’s the concept anyway. The reality is messier. But even so, herd immunity is a critical part of how vaccines protect us.

  41. Not Alison*

    #3 Your instincts are correct about not using taxpayer paid equipment, however, do NOT be a tattle-tale on your neighbor. Let your neighbor know your preference to not use any equipment belonging to the city, and then in the future, keep your eyes within the confines of your own property so that you don’t notice what your neighbor is doing – that way you won’t feel like you are compelled to report your neighbor for something that you should probably keep your nose out of anyway.

    1. valentine*

      Unless she’s happy to be fired for not reporting him, she should report any post-warning violations she witnesses.

      1. spek*

        Or she could realize the investigation into using city landscaping equipment probably won’t grind to the level of summoning potential witnesses and DNA tests and she can easily choose to MHOB….

      2. Brett*

        > Unless she’s happy to be fired for not reporting him

        Unless LW is a patronage employee, that would be a very difficult firing to push without a criminal conviction to go with it. Merit employees are covered by 14th amendment due process rights, and generally there has to be a pattern of misconduct after being given a chance to improve. (So LW would get warned to report behavior in the future, but not fired.)
        If LW is a patronage employee (which is possible here), then she can be easily fired or not fired, at the discretion of the elected official she reports to.

    2. Czhorat*

      “Don’t tattle” is usually reserved for the playground, but using a county-purchased leafblower for ones own yard is probably not a major enough breach of ethics to warrant a potentially job-threatening complaint. On a scale of stealing paperclips to embezzling thousands of dollars it certainly seems to fall towards the lower end.

  42. Alex*

    OP#2, I’ve been on your managers end before. I had a great employee who had grown in the position and had great potential. She had finished her degree under me and was recently licensed in our field. When I saw an opening for a manager position that was a great fit for her I forwarded it. She came to me and asked if I was hinting she should leave. I explained that I did not want her to leave and relied on her quite a bit. But, I also didn’t want to hold her back from progressing if that was what she wanted. She said she preferred to stay in a lower pressure position to ‘recover’ from the whole school/licensing process for a while. She stayed two more years and then took a manager position of her choice. I still write letters of recommendation for her on request.

    Talk to your boss about it. They may just be trying to show their support for your career path.

  43. AngryOwl*

    OP#1 I have no patience for antivaxxers (I also very much like “pro-plague” now that I’ve seen it). I’m sorry you have to deal with this. If you have a reasonable manager, I really like Allison’s idea of sitting down and discussing options. I hope your friend recovers soon.

  44. Trout 'Waver*

    I don’t know. One side is arguing from science and societal good and the other is arguing from ignorance and false anecdotes. So dismiss that as “tit for tat” is dangerously close to saying “the truth is somewhere in the middle”.

    I do agree that arguing about it with anti-vaxxers is incredibly unproductive, though.

  45. jstarr*

    No 4., I feel ya. I was actually hired through social media because my then current boss liked my content. Turns out they had problems with getting too invested in the private lives of their subordinates and ended up getting called onto the carpet with HR about it. Unfriend without fear!

  46. SigneL*

    OP 4: If your boss asks why she hasn’t seen anything of your on FB recently )after you restrict what she does see) – you can always say “I’m taking a break from FB.”

  47. Come On Eileen*

    I had a bad reaction to a flu shot about 15 years ago (permanent nerve damage now as a result) and so I haven’t gotten a flu shot since. I’m also really hesitant to get any sort of vaccine for the same reason. So I guess it’s possible that I myself am compromising herd immunity the same way that someone labelled an anti-vaxxer is doing. But our intentions/reasons are quite different. I’m curious what OP#1 would think, since the RESULT is the same (potential to compromise others through choices we’ve made). I don’t talk about my personal reasons with anyone, and if I worked with OP #1 she’d never know I’m not getting those vaccines, but there’s still a risk I guess. So that’s my question — would OP be raging mad at me since I’m potentially contributing to the result that’s so feared?

    1. Kettles*

      Why are you even likening not getting a shot for medical reasons to not getting a shot out of ignorance?

      1. valentine*

        You are definitely compromising herd immunity. We are meant to do what we can to protect those who cannot be vaccinated.

        Why not speak with a medical professional about how likely another bad reaction would be, how to reduce it, and whether vaccination is worth that risk?

        1. Come On Eileen*

          I have asked that very question of my doctors, several times, which is why I haven’t received further vaccines.

      2. Come On Eileen*

        I’m not? I’m asking what people think of my personal circumstance — since the result seems effectively similar to what OP is asking.

        1. Kettles*

          People who *cannot* vaccinate are completely different from people who choose not to. The whole point of herd immunity is to protect people like you who have bad reactions to shots or are too immuno-compromised to have them.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      OP would probably include you in the group with her friend, who can not get vaccinated for medical reasons.

      A ‘rabid anti-vaxxer’ calls up someone who is vocal about the choice, and tries to persuade others to join them in that choice, all without a medical reason.

      I’ve got a medical reason for not-flu-vaccine too, but I am pretty pro-vaccine overall.

    3. M*

      It’s worth emphasising: if you are genuinely unable to get vaccinated (and it’s worth talking to a medical professional about that in your case: they may very well be able to reliably isolate the cause of the bad reaction and identify which precise vaccines you need to avoid), *you* are reliant on the herd immunity that comes from everyone who can get vaccinated doing so. It’s crucial *to you and your health* that those who don’t run a risk of significant medical consequences remain up-to-date on their vaccines. You’re not just not in the same category as someone who’s anti-vax – as opposed to *unvaccinateable* – those people are putting you in danger.

      The kind of side effects you experienced are extremely, extremely rare; and someone who has no reason to believe they’re vulnerable to them but uses them to justify compromising herd immunity is a bad person. You, on the other hand, have a genuine medical condition that limits the vaccinations you can receive (though, again, work this through with your GP/specialist – it’s unlikely to rule out all vaccinations, and may even not rule out all flu vaccines). It’s a category error to treat those as the same thing.

    4. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

      Speaking for myself: people in your situation, who can’t safely be vaccinated, are part of why I make a point of being up-to-date on my own vaccines, and urging other people to get vaccinated. But I won’t push if someone says either “I’d like to, but my doctor says it’s not safe” or “thanks for reminding me.”

      If someone pushes you, it would be reasonable to tell them that your doctor–not your father-in-law or Gwyneth Paltrow or Dr. Oz, your own doctor who knows your medical history–said you shouldn’t get the flu vaccine. Or even a half-truth like “I had a bad reaction once, so my doctor said to come to his office, not get the flu shot at work.” I also know people who do get the flu vaccine, and have to get it at their doctor’s offices for other reasons. My former boss was old enough that she needed the higher-dose vaccine which the office clinic didn’t have, and a disabled friend of mine is covered by a Medicare plan, which won’t pay for the drugstore flu vaccine because they assume that everyone on Medicare is old enough to need the high-dose vaccines.

    5. JSPA*

      This is a very good point. After all, if the coworker were UNABLE to get vaccines (or for that matter, unable to mount an immune response, rendering the vaccines useless on her), the health issues would be the same! But minus all the anger.

      IMHO, because compromising herd immunity is a group action (in the sense that no one person creates the problem in a vacuum), the best way to deal with it is to accept that the personal biological problem (exposure to someone sick) is separate from the epidemiological problem (too many unvaccinated people–which, by the way, would be just as much a problem, epidemiologically, if every last one of them were vaccine-unprotected for purely medical reasons).

      So, the emotion-free, “dealing with airborne virus” answer:

      NIOSH level N95 masks are really significantly effective in reducing viral spread. Use the ventless ones to protect others from you. Use the vented ones to protect yourself from other people. I was wearing one for three hours today (5.5 days into a flu, attenuated / shortened by the vaccine, fever broke yesterday, knew there were some immunocompromised people using the same space, so I waited until they were gone for the day, took a bit of cough suppressant and antihistamine, then masked up, washed hands and arms well, went in, did what I needed to, wiped down surfaces I’d contacted with an ethanol-based antibacterial wipe, came home. It’s not perfect. Use of resources, and all that.

      In OP’s circumstance, if I were going to wear a mask all day to protect myself, I’d splurge on a canister mask, and wear it for a couple of days before seeing sick friend. If coworker shows no sign of sickness, the chances that she’s invisibly sick and that I’m a carrier are…lower than that one of the nurses in the hospital is a carrier, frankly. (Nosocomial infections are crazy common, and crazy problematic.) Then, if still worried, wear a regular disposable N95 mask to the hospital.

  48. CG*

    There are a lot of people in the comments minimizing the consequences of a bunch of folks opting out of the flu shot. Yes, it makes some of us slightly uncomfortable and yes, many of us don’t get the flu every year. However, the flu shot is not just for the recipient; it’s also to protect those around the recipient. I honestly don’t get the folks who say things like, “I don’t agree with antivaxxers, but I would never get the flu shot!” Refusing to get the flu shot for non-medical reasons is still being opposed to getting a vaccine for non-medical reasons.

  49. Latkas, please.*

    OP#3 – there’s a huge difference between signing out a tool for personal use (which is what I hope he is referring to) and then handing it back in versus actually getting department workers to go perform work of a personal nature at your home. Did he say that he would send people from his department over to work on your lawn, or did he offer to lend a tool? If he’s allowed to sign tools out and that’s what offered, there’s no ethical issue there.

  50. Roscoe*

    #3, so I’m not a city worker, so take this how you will. But MOST people have done things that are “unethical” at work. It can be as small as taking home office supplies, looking for jobs while on the clock, etc. The levels of ethics are pretty muddy. I get that government is different, but I’d look at the fact that if he has been there longer, maybe there is a bit more of a culture there of “if its not hurting anyone its not a big deal”. Now, that isn’t me saying YOU should do this if you don’t feel right. However, it seems in the grand scheme of things, using a leaf blower for personal use isn’t THAT big of a deal. I’m willing to be some people who drive work vehicles have run a personal errand or 2 while in them. I’m guessing that is unethical as well.

    So my advice is to just politely say “no thank you” and let it go. Reporting him seems like an extreme reaction here, especially if you are the new person in town or in the office. It seems that he is a nice guy, so you could be really setting yourself up to be a pariah in the town and office

    1. OP3*

      OP3 here. You’re right that the perception is often “it’s not a big deal” but it’s a slippery slope.

      For example, in 2014, a city employee in Ridgewood, NJ admitted that he stole $460,000 in quarters from the city’s parking meter collection room over a period of 2 years. He didn’t steal it all at once; he started out with a pocketful, and then two, then another – nearly a half million dollars before he got caught. Not only did he lose his job and pension, he has to pay it all back.

      I don’t want to see my neighbor get in trouble, and if this is what’s truly going on in that department, I’d like to suggest that he and his fellow workers are educated going forward. My inclination is to just mind my own business, but I kind of feel an obligation to my employer (and by extension, the taxpayers of the city) to try to head this off before anything bad happens. That’s why I wrote to Alison.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yes, but not every slope is slippery.

        Do you ever use your work phone to make a personal call? Use a pen purchased by your office, or paperclips, for personal use? If so, did this lead to stealing a computer, or embezzling funds?

        1. Statler von Waldorf*

          I strongly disagree with you and agree with OP3. This slope (benefiting yourself personally at your employer’s expense) IS slippery as an eel, in my experience. This slope gets doubly so if your work for government.

        2. OP3*

          That’s a bit of a straw man, Czhorat. Not every person who takes a pen home from work ends up stealing a computer. My point was that I don’t think that the average thief starts out the first time by stealing a half million dollars; they start out small and when they aren’t caught, the theft gets bigger as the thief gets bolder.

          1. Czhorat*

            I didn’t mean it as a strawman and don’t mean to be argumentative.

            My point it that the argument that “small time theft leads to big time theft” is a bit of a slippery-slope argument, and that you could make the very same argument for someone going from taking a pen home to stealing a computer.

            I’ll also note that personal use of durable goods, while not cost-neutral (there is wear and tear on the equipment), is not the same as actual theft of funds.

            You draw lines where you’re comfortable; my point is that “used the town leaf blower for his neighbor’s yard” does not, for me, reach the level at which it needs to be reported.

        3. Not A Manager*

          Sure, but that’s like a slippery slope the other way. Removing large equipment from government property for personal use isn’t as de minimis as making a personal call at work. Bringing up something really trivial doesn’t address the much more serious issue that LW is asking about.

          1. Czhorat*

            No, but it’s somewhere in between.

            It’s not stealing money, but also isn’t taking paperclips. Where it falls on the continuum is a bit of a tricky question.

      2. Roscoe*

        I definitely believe you are coming from a good place. But I think it may be better to, as Alison said, maybe suggest a “general” ethics training. But I still wouldn’t suggest talking to him or his superiors about it. As the new person, even if you are correct, it probably won’t be a good look for you. Unless you were brought in for the specific point to evaluate ethics issues, then its different. But since you didn’t mention that, I’m guessing its not the case

        1. OP3*

          I appreciate all the comments and points of view. Just to clarify, I’m new to living in this town (I used to commute) but I’ve been at this same job for 15 years.

  51. ClairefromLondon*

    To Nr. 1 I am so sorry, it sounds like a horrendous situation:
    Your friend is extremely ill and I suspect you are terrified for them and terrified that by visiting them you could harm them, when you probably want to spend time with them (particularly if you are afraid they may die).
    And your colleague appears to be blithely ignoring you and your friends needs, while expressing her erroneous beliefs to all and sundry: that sounds infuriating and I’m not surprised you are furious.
    Speaking from personal experience, when somebody we care about is extremely ill and may die, and we are dealing with a lot of feelings about that, we often target somebody or something we can legitimately load all our anger on (seriously, been there, done that). It helps us feel more in control, than trying to deal with the fear and anger a potentially terminal illness of somebody we care about creates in us. That does not mean you are wrong on the facts or your feelings are wrong, but the intensity of emotion you are experiencing may be related to your feelings about your friend, rather than your colleague.
    Here are my suggestions about how to cope with what is going on.
    1. Talk to a doctor about your concerns and see whether there are solutions that allow you to see your friend (skype might be an option?). If there are solutions that require less contact with your colleague, see if your workplace can help you implement them. (This is wildly theoretical, I don’t know, what the best practical way to proceed would be.)
    2. Reduce your contact with your colleague to as little as what is possible in your work context. If you do have to engage with her, don’t discuss vaccines at all. If she starts the topic, change the topic . Strict professional distance may be the best way to go that allows you to keep hold of your temper.
    3. Talk to other people about the situation, both your feelings about your friend and your feelings about your colleague. Not venting, but talking can sometimes help us work out what is going on under the surface.

  52. Karen from Finance*

    OP1, if you or your friend aren’t already on it, let me suggest you and/or your friend find a closed Facebook group called “Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Awareness”. There’s a very good, well-moderated community of support and information there. You might be able to raise this same question there and see if anyone else’s been in this situation before? We’re always here to talk if you have questions or just need to vent.

    As a Hodgkin’s survivor, I can relate to your post and I am moved by how much you are caring about your friend. Even if you can’t physically be there, the fact that you’re there emotionally means the world. Thank you.

    I hope he gets better. Take care.

  53. Vaccinate_or_Begone*

    100% ok to demand and expect that anti-vaxxers not be present in the workplace. It’s an absolute betrayal. “Opting out of vaccines should opt you out of American society” is the title of an editorial piece by no lesser minds than those being published in a recent Scientific American.

    You refuse to get vaccinated? You’re clearly not competent enough to keep co-workers safe in a wide-variety of contexts. It’s lunacy and I refuse to stand for it. Not remotely sorry for this stance. Nope.


  54. Linzava*

    Thank you for this. Something else people don’t consider, in 1918, a strain of the H1N1 became deadly and killed 21 million people worldwide. It was deadly because it mutated to use the immune system against the person. The reason we should all get flu shots is to try to eliminate the virus, this is only possible if everyone gets it who can. The flu virus mutates constantly and healthy people who don’t vaccinate become incubators for something preventable. Sorry if it’s off topic, but the flu vaccine is a lot more important than people realize.

  55. Mrs Nacho*

    To LW #4: This is a crappy situation, and I agree with you, I wouldn’t want this person on my Facebook. Personally, I would just block her–she won’t get a notification that you’re doing it or anything like that, you’ll just disappear, and when she tries to search it would come up just like you don’t have a Facebook at all and she won’t be able to see anything of yours, including your comments/likes etc. on other people’s posts. That way, if she chooses to be childish and ask about it, you can just say something like “Oh, I deleted my Facebook! (I was spending too much time on it, it was bad for my mental health, etc,) which are all valid reasons that people get rid of their social media.

    1. Normally a Lurker*

      eh – this can REALLY backfire if a mutual tags you in something and you respond. She won’t be able to see you responses, but will be able to see that someone is responding to you – including your name if they hit the reply button.

      And then you’re dealing with the block PLUS the lie.

      (Having said that, I am also all for culling boss out of friend’s list – this way just might have unintended consequences)

  56. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP #2 – I started casually looking for a new position at about the 18 month point because, like you, I was wildly overqualified and underpaid for the work I was doing at the time. It was the first time in my professional life that I started job searching without feeling like I absolutely needed a new job right now, which was a novelty, but also made things so much less stressful.

    Right around the time that I applied for my current position, my boss and I had a one on one and she told me that she knew I wasn’t going to stick around forever and gave me a description for a job that one of her former employees posted that she thought would be a good fit for me. It was a very kind thing and it allowed me to be open and honest with her when I was scheduling interviews which I greatly appreciated.

    Alison is right that you should have a conversation with your boss about this, but approach it as a positive, kind thing your boss is doing for you and not a subtle hint that she wants you to leave.

  57. NowWhat??*

    #2 – Honestly, this is a great sign that your manager is looking out for you, especially if the positions are at a higher level/pay than you currently have.

    My former manager was a mentor who was transferred to my department, so she already knew I was on the hunt when she started managing me, and was fully supportive as she couldn’t change my title and pay as there was not a space for it. My supervisor also clued in when I hit the three year mark that I had outgrown my assistant position and encouraged me to look elsewhere. She even encouraged me to show her job descriptions of things I was applying to, to make sure I wasn’t selling myself short with my experience and background. She ended up finding my current role on a team in our office I had not even considered applying to and I am so happy in my new position.

    I would definitely have a sit down with her to discuss professional development overall: are there skills you’re looking to obtain before moving into your next role? Are you looking to stick around and hope for a promotion down the line? Are there specific positions, or benefits (work life balance, more vacation, etc) that you’re holding out for? All of these are great conversations to have with someone who likely has a great network in your field and would be a reference for years to come.

  58. Lady Phoenix*

    (Loud applaude)

    Not to mention Anti-Vaxxers tend to be ablist to people on the Autistic Spectrum

  59. W*

    I find the tone of many of the pro-vaxxers comments somewhat alarming. People have the freedom of choice whether to be vaccinated or not. People will be exposed to viruses and germs even if every single person in the country was vaccinated for every single illness. I can’t help but think of how recently a woman whose son died of the flu had many pro-vaxxers targeted her and left horribly cruel comments on her Facebook page.

    1. Roscoe*

      I mean, they do, but I don’t have a problem with them being reminded that they are endangering others, which they are. Measles was more or less gone and now kids are dying from it because of anit vaxxers. Its like speech. You have the freedom to say what you want, that doesn’t mean people won’t say stuff back to you and judge you

      1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

        this. I personally have no problem with public shaming on this issue. This isn’t just a silly belief (ie flat earthers) that just annoy others, for this LW it’s a prime example that it’s far beyond unreasonable thinking.

      2. Observer*

        You also don’t have the right to “cry FIRE in a crowded theater”. ie Your free speech rights stop when they actively endanger other people.

    2. Czhorat*

      Freedom of choice to not be vaccinated compromises herd immunity and puts the population at large at risk.

      There is no reason for anyone to have the freedom to do harm.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      They do not have unlimited freedom to choice on vaccination in many states, actually. All 50 states have vaccination laws, and while those laws do have exemptions, they are, for the most part, specific-reason exemptions. Some states lately have been working to narrow the exemptions even further. Your freedome to choose not to be vaccinated is limited, in some states quite significantly.

      Regardless, this is a serious health issue. People who do not vaccinate actively endanger the lives of people around them. I don’t see what is so alarming about being angry about that.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Ack, besides the typos, this is sloppy. The laws are around school entrance requirements in many states, so homeschoolers who never go to public school or college can more easily avoid vaccinations. Still, there is not some grand “freedom to choose to be a public health hazard willy nilly” concept here.

    4. Janie*

      For now, in some places. In other places vaccines are mandatory.

      You also don’t have “freedom of choice” to drink and drive.

    5. Statler von Waldorf*

      Tobacco is a legal product. I have the freedom of choice to use it. If I start blowing cigarette smoke in your face, am I exercising my freedom of choice? Yes. Am I also being an asshole who is causing harm to others? Also yes.

      If you are causing harm to others, you will be judged for it. And the scientific consensus absolutely agrees on this, if you are refusing vaccinations, you are causing harm to others. It is not immoral that society will negatively view someone when they are causing harm to others, that just how the world works.

    6. Lady Phoenix*

      Your freedom for no Vaxx can cause people like my dad to get sick and possibly die.

      Your “freedom” is dispelled if it will maliciously hurt other people, period.

    7. Not A Manager*

      This comment illustrates some of the difficulty in arguing with anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, etc. W got everything right about the parent who was cruelly flamed after her child died, except for the crucial fact that she’d vaccinated her child and it was anti-vaxxers who attacked her.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yep. These people lie lie lie and lie some more in support of their baseless, hurtful ideas – and the most effective lies often have a bit of truth mixed in to make them more believable.

        1. Not A Manager*

          I do not believe for a minute that W was lying. That’s the insidious thing about falling into these conspiracy/fringe communities. I think W truly misread or misremembered the horrifying news item, in a way that was equally shocking but that corroborated her existing beliefs. That’s not because W is evil, it’s because that’s how human minds work.

    8. Observer*

      Actually, it was NOT the pro-vaxxers – it was the ANTI-vaxxers who targeted her.

      That kind of viciousness is one of the reasons why people get so riled up. The other reason is that the “personal choice” that these people are making puts people who DO NOT HAVE CHOICE at risk.

  60. Normally a Lurker*

    OP 4 – You could also post, on facebook, public setting a “Hi all! In effort to stay off social media so much, I”m shrinking my friend’s list to my nearest and dearest. It’s been great see you all and I wish you all well!”

    Leave that on public, then you can cut out whoever you want and put everything on private, including your friend’s list.

    It’s the lowest pressure version of friend’s culling and is common enough that it shouldn’t raise any flags for anyone, even a vindictive boss.

  61. Aunt Piddy*

    For #4, if you think she’s the type of person to notice and be mad about unfriending, mark her as an “acquaintance”. If you go to her profile you can click on the button where it says “Friends” and click on “manage friends lists” then click on the list you want to add her to (in this case, “acquaintances” or make a list called “work”). Then set your default posting to “Friends except acquaintances” (or work). Throw up an uncontroversial meme or dog picture to that list every once in a while, and keep your postings “Friends except acquaintances”. She’ll never know.

  62. Immunocompromised Commenter Here*

    Re: OP #1. Immunocompromised person here! I am on a couple different immunosuppressants myself and work full-time, so I personally have had to deal with anti-vaxxers nearby, as well as people who are not careful about general germ spreading. First, I appreciate your being thoughtful of your friend! I’m always grateful to my friends who advocate for those of us who are immunocompromised. A couple things to consider:

    Hand hygiene is something that you can advocate for that really does make a HUGE difference, regardless of vaccinated-status. Most people don’t realize how many germs they are transferring to common areas simply by not practicing hand hygiene, especially during cold/flu season. A good resource for hand hygiene practices is here:

    You could model these good practices yourself, as well as perhaps work with colleagues to put up flyers in common areas and have alcohol-based hand rubs placed strategically around the work area. This also will help you better protect your immunocompromised friend if you are following good hand hygiene, too.

    Second, generally if you visit an immunocompromised person in the hospital, the protocol is that you have to wear personal protective equipment (mask, gloves, gown, booties, etc.) anyway. Your concern is very valid and appreciated, but you should speak to your friend’s care team about your concerns and how to mitigate risk of exposure to your friend. The situation would be a lot more dire if you lived with an immunocompromised person, rather than only seeing them on periodic visits.

    I’m not trying to downplay your situation at all. There are concrete steps that you can take with these particular circumstances though.

  63. boop the first*

    1. Wait, is the coworker sick with something? Unless they are actually suffering with influenza, they’re going to be covered in the same germs that you are… vaccines don’t produce some kind of germ-killing aura or anything. And if you’re extremely vaccinated, you wouldn’t be shedding anything either. I’m not sure that punishing your friend is going to be the noble point you’d like to make, especially since hospitals are the germiest places I can think of to send an immunocompromised person.

    1. boop the first*

      Heh, I realize that I may be explaining science to someone in the science industry, so feel free to correct me on this one.

  64. Brett*

    This is just an amusing related story, about how people expect public employees to take things from work. A few years back, when I worked in emergency management, they always sent a snowplow down our cul-de-sac because I was on the emergency plow list. These were often the _big_ snowplows used for interstates, and that meant then tended to plow up several inches of curb and yard as well as the street.

    Since they were plowing because of me, I went out and bought a bunch of really nice marker poles(~$10/ea) and lined our part of the cul-de-sac with them.
    Well, they started disappearing on a regular basis, to the tune of well over $100 in replacement poles. I thought snowplows were snapping them off. I then realized that two of my neighbors had put some up on their own driveways and yards. I ran into one, and asked her why she was taking the marker poles I put out.
    “Oh, we figured you would just get more from the county so we took them.”
    ‘What? No. I bought those.’
    “But other neighbor said you just snap them off snowplows at work.”
    ‘Snap? Like pull them off the blades?’
    “Yeah, he said you were just snapping them off the blades and taking them home. So we figured we could take them for free.”
    ‘No! I buy all those.’
    “Oh, um, he has been giving them away to people all over the neighborhood and telling them you take them from work.”

    Oddly, no one ever tried to report me. They must have been worried about ending the supply of “free” reflector poles.

  65. Sylvia*

    I’ve found the discussion on vaccinations fascinating. I have all my vaccines, but it never occurred to me to have boosters or to get flu shots for the benefit of immuno-compromised people. I have no problem with flu shots, it’s just that the free ones in my area involve standing in line for hours. I’ll make a point of getting them in the future because it’s obviously worth it.

    What I think would be helpful is some federal legislation to give workers protected time-off to go get vaccinated, similar to voting or jury duty leave. I think this would be especially useful in forward-facing customer service jobs, where in my experience, it was hardest to get time off (yet it would be even more important to have those shots because of all the people I came into contact with).

    1. Observer*

      That’s a really good point. Make ALL vaccinations free and reasonably easy to get and make sure that people don’t have to risk their jobs / retaliation for getting their shots. Because a lot of people who DO absolutely want to get vaccinated will not if that’s what they are up against.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, this (and recently reading a couple of terrifying articles about tetanus) convinced me I need to get boosters, because I don’t remember when any of my previous vaccines were!

  66. Noah*

    The ADA should really be amended to cover OP #1’s situation. The associational discrimination provision is far too weak.

      1. a1*

        Has public smaming ever really worked? There’s a reason we no longer have pillories, or scarlet letters, or tar and feathering.

        1. Genny*

          In a lot of ways, boycotting/protesting corporations is the same as public shaming and that’s been effective in some cases (see three major museums refusing monetary donations from the Sackler family who, along with Purdue Pharma, were being sued for their role in the opium crisis).

  67. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

    #1. Wear a surgical mask when u have to work with her. If she asks, a simple matter of fact, “I need to try and stay healthy to keep a loved one healthy,” isn’t offensive. If shes offended, oh well. That’s not your problem.

    Subtle shaming without directly saying so?

  68. Miss Muffet*

    My rule on FB is no Chain-of-Command. I don’t friend subordinates or my boss, and it’s easy to communicate that rule. I once worked for my next door neighbor, who had been my friend on social media, and I told her as soon as I started that I would be unfriending her because I now reported to her and that was my rule. It also allows you to be friends with your peers at work, if that makes sense, while ridding yourself of the terrible boss spying on your personal life!

  69. I Work on a Hellmouth*

    #3 General statement: It is now my life’s goal to joyride in a city tractor up and down my block.

    #4 Ugh, I feel for you, OP. My boss is a friend on FB and would have an unholy fit if I unfriended her. So I now have everything on serious lockdown, and also filter out all mutal friends. It stinks, but I look forward to quietly unfriending her someday after I start a new job.

  70. hello*

    Op 5, I think including the word “seasonal” can help with their understanding of the work you did as well

    January 2016-May 2016, full time
    June 2016-Present, seasonal

  71. Iris*

    LW1, I think a person coming to work sick puts people in danger a lot more than someone who is not vaccinated but not sick at the time or stays home when they’re sick. I would worry about that a lot more, but I don’t know how an immuno-compromised person would avoid that as so many people come to work sick. They can just stay as far away as possible, maybe go to another office for a few days, etc.

    As an aside, one of my family members was the only one who got the flu shot this year. Then they got the flu pretty bad a couple weeks later and gave everyone else in the house the flu. He actually apologized lol. This is why many people choose not to get the flu shots.

    1. Observer*

      You can think what you want, but the facts don’t bear that out. In many cases, you can be highly contagious before having any symptoms. Given that the OP is in a measles hotspot, and measles is one of those diseases – and that the measles virus can hang around for a couple of hours, this is not a ridiculous fear.

      And, the flu shot didn’t give your relative the flu. The timeline for that is all wrong.

      1. Iris*

        In my experience the people who get flu shots the most get sick the most. Vaccinated people definitely shed the virus. I posted this not so much to argue about what caused the flu but the fact that a vaccinated person can not only get the flu but give it to other people.

      2. Iris*

        I didn’t say the OP’s fear is ridiculous, I said people who are actually sick and coming in to work are more reason for concern. Also while it’s true that a person can be contagious before and after symptoms, the highest risk is when they have symptoms and are coughing and sneezing, etc.

          1. Iris*

            She’s talking about both the measles and the flu, but her immuno-compromised friend got the flu and not measles.

      3. Quandong*

        +1 to Observer’s comments.

        Iris, how does this help OP1? What you are saying is more likely to aggravate and anger them, since it sounds like you are skeptical of the way vaccination actually works!

        1. Iris*

          Yes, I am skeptical. My intention was not to anger OP but for one, to point out that people who actually come to work sick are more a danger to anyone who is immuno-compromised and two, to point out an example from my life where a vaccinated person actually caused other people to become sick. Maybe try to make OP not feel so guilty and alleviate some of her fears because OP seemed concerned about visiting her friend not because she’s not vaccinated or sick but because she’s around someone who’s not vaccinated. And I’m sure anyone who visits the friend would be required to put on a mask and gloves, etc. and anyone who’s sick should obviously stay away.

          1. Observer*

            Except that your experience actually doesn’t prove anything of the sort. The causation you claim is classic – and totally not possible. It’s just not possible that the shot actually CAUSED someone to get the flu WEEKS later.

    2. mcr-red*

      I just posted something similar. Out of my 20 person department, I’d say about half got the flu shot back when they started offering it in October? November? Before Christmas at least. Between the months of late December and March, all 20/20 have had the flu at some point. And the first two that got the flu I know for sure got the flu shot.

    3. Not A Manager*

      The flu shot did not give your relative the flu “a couple of weeks” after they got the shot. It’s possible that coincidentally they got the flu despite (not because of) having been vaccinated, but unless your relative was actually tested for influenza or had a very credible diagnosis, the far greater likelihood is that your relative had a bad cold.

      Viral shedding is a possible occurrence of *live vaccines,* which are a small sub-set of current vaccines, the virus is extremely attenuated, and there is no evidence that viral shedding is any kind of public health risk.

      1. Iris*

        I know people say this all the time and yet I have too much eyewitness experience to the contrary to discount it and seeing a ton of coworkers, often ones who are already chronically sick get even more sick after they keep getting flu and other shots . I myself got really sick from a flu shot once (and only got it once or twice) with something like the flu but even worse so I avoid them for that reason. I would not want to work in a medical setting or anywhere it’s required. I stay home if I’m sick and do my best not to infect other people.

        1. Iris*

          Body chills and body aches among others things, it lasted for a week, and it was hard to get over. We all had it and got it from the person who got vaccinated.

          1. Janie*

            Gee, I wonder if there’s a correlation between the time of year people get flu shots and the time of year people get bad colds. Which do, in fact, come with body chills and body aches, and can last for a week. Those are all things I’ve experienced with a cold.

            I wonder if there’s also a correlation between a whole bunch of people not getting a flu shot getting the flu. Guess we’ll never know.

          2. Observer*

            That could easily be a cold – or a type of flu that the shot doesn’t vaccinate against. There is a reason the the CDC requires a lab test for this.

            1. Iris*

              I don’t know what it is you’re calling baloney, but it’s a fact that we all got sick from the one person in the family who got vaccinated who later gave his flu to everyone else. You can say it’s all a coincidence or it wasn’t the flu but a severe cold, which I disagree with both, but it definitely happened. And the family member who got vaccinated even made the connection on their own, felt bad about getting everyone else sick and will probably think twice about future vaccines.

              1. ramonaflowers89*

                It takes about two weeks after the flu shot for you to have immunity, so he may have already been infected before getting the shot and immunity had not kicked in yet. He might have gotten a strain not included in the vaccine and had no prior cross-protection from other previous infections to shorten the illness duration. Same goes for your sick coworkers – they could have had bad timing and came into contact with infectious people before immunity kicked in, got a strain they had no protection against, etc. If they were acutely sick with something else – maybe highly stressed or they already had a cold – their immune defense was already lowered so they got slammed by the flu harder than if they were immunocompetent at the time. If they are on chemo or chronically sick with HIV or some other immune-suppressing illness, they are even more susceptible to picking up whatever is circulating. They should be getting whatever vaccines their doctors deem safe.

                If you got sick right after a flu shot (within 24 hours), it was probably either an immune response to the antigens in your system or an actual allergic reaction to the vaccine components. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot since it is an inactivated vaccine – the virus is incapable of replicating. A vaccinated person cannot give the flu to someone else if they got the shot in the arm – there is no viral replication at any point because the virus is dead. I think cell-based flu vaccines will be better tolerated since we would be eliminating egg antigens. The nasal flu vaccine is a live-attenuated vaccine, which is capable of limited replication and thus can shed – but this vaccine is restricted to certain populations because of this risk.

                I had the same thing happen to me – I got a B influenza type strain back in graduate school and got knocked on my ass for a week. I gave it to all my roommates. It was a miserable experience – and I did get vaccinated that year. And I still continue to vaccinate myself because some protection is better than no protection plus I am contributing to herd immunity to protect people who medically cannot get the vaccine.

                My advice is to get vaccinated as early as possible before you’re in the middle of flu season so you have a lower risk of already having picked up a flu virus and not having your immunity kick in in time. I would also encourage your coworkers and yourself to get yourselves tested for allergies to the vaccine components if you consistently have bad reactions to them.

              2. Observer*

                That still doesn’t mean that the shot gave him the flu.

                We get it you are anti vax but you want to pretend otherwise, os people should listen to the malarkey. Please stop it. ESPECIALLY in a thread where someone’s life is in extra danger because of vaccine preventable diseases!

  72. Anti-plague*

    LW #1 here. And I want to thank AAM for judiciously editing my letter so I didn’t sound quite so unhinged.

    Thanks for the advice. I am in one of the measles hotspots in the country, the coworker has discussed having a “pox party” with her friends if one of their kids gets it – almost sounds like she’s hoping for it. And there’s no way what we do together could be done any way but standing next to each other – think lab testing as an example.

    Among the public pro-plague (I love that phrase and will use it at work now) group, it’s a regular topic of loud conversation. There’s more to the group, “crunchy” describes them well, but that’s a derail.

    I’m hitting the pharmacy on the way home today to pick up some masks. And I’ll have my titers checked when I get my annual physical shortly.

    And yes, I’m ANGRY! I don’t think coworker gave my friend influenza, but she and her ilk create the conditions that made it more likely that he would get it. And other preventable diseases. My friend’s medical team has been explicit, “If you are experiencing any symptoms, have been or may have been (emphasis added) exposed to a communicable disease, do not visit.” He currently has zero immunity.

    I think I’m glad I didn’t come in before AAM deleted the comments she did.

    Again, thank you all. Well, most of you…

    1. Observer*

      Does the medical team consider working with anti-vaxxers a potential exposure, given that there is a good chance that these idiots have themselves probably been vaccinated? Or are you worried that they might not tell you about their kid(s) getting sick? (There are people like that and I suspect you would know if they are like that.)

      The Pox-party stuff is about chicken pox which is supposedly “harmless”. Which is utter lunacy based on total ignorance.

      The Pox party idea did once have some sense – in the days before vaccination. Because getting chicken pox as a (healthy) child is a bit less dangerous than getting it as an adult. But NOT GETTING IT AT ALL is better. You would think that this would be obvious to people but ignorance is hard to fight sometimes.

      I saw a really good comment about this a few years ago. The person said that vaccines are victims of their own success. These are people who have grown up without seeing the widespread devastation that these diseases can (and DO!) cause, and so they find it easier to convince themselves that the diseases are not “really” so bad.

      PS I totally get why you are angry – I’m not dealing with this kind of issue in my life right now and it still makes be furious. Having it in your face this way must be REALLY rough. My sympathies!

    2. Iris*

      The reason people have “pox parties” is because if a relatively healthy child gets chicken pox as a child while uncomfortable they will usually recover relatively fast and well and be immune to it for life. But if a relatively healthy adult gets chicken pox the disease course is usually way more severe and can and is way more likely to lead to death than in children. But I definitely don’t think immuno-compromised children should be attending pox parties, I’m sure their parents know better than that! And I’m sure adults who have chicken pox would not be coming in to work (vaccinated or not), at least I hope not!!

      1. Not A Manager*

        If only there were some way that we could protect children from certain communicable diseases without having to intentionally expose them to it. What a world that would be!

      2. Commercial Property Manager*

        Having chicken pox (in childhood or as an adult) does not protect you from getting shingles as an adult. “Pox parties” are at best uneducated and at worst deliberately exposing children to a preventable disease.

        1. Observer*

          Good point! Having chicken pox not only doesn’t protect against shingles, it raises your risk. Which is an additional good reason to NOT have pox parties.

      3. Observer*

        Even healthy children can have some fairly serious complications from chicken pox – and it’s FAR more likely than serious effects from the vaccine. And that doesn’t even get to the issue of scarring, which is incredibly common.

        1. Truth*

          Incredibly common, eh? I’m searching feverishly for anyone my age or older with pox scars and I’m coming up zero…

      4. Frustrated by Stupidity*

        These poop pox party children are also at risk for shingles later in life. You pro plague bias is showing.

    3. Nancie*

      You can even call your Dr’s office and ask them to order the titer tests for you at a local draw station. By the time your appointment rolls around, they’ll know which vaccines/boosters you need and can have them ready for you.

  73. Prod Coor*

    OP 3: Does LW know how strict the rules actually are within their neighbor’s department? I work for a company that rents a variety of equipment for live events, theatrical performances, and film/tv shoots, and any employee is allowed to borrow equipment at no cost (with permission from the company owners). Does LW know that there isn’t a culture at the park dept that allows for that as well? I think jumping on the “everyone needs ethics training” train is premature. I understand that it’s local government, but it really feels like an overreaction and like LW doesn’t have the full story of the department’s culture.

    1. OP3*

      OP3 here. Policy is strict for all departments, we’re not permitted to use public assets for anyone’s private use, employee or not. There is no “sign out tools for the weekend” policy. If the average person can’t walk in to the parks department and ask to sign out a tool for the weekend, neither can an employee.

      We can’t gas up private vehicles at the city pumps; the roads department can’t plow the mayor’s or anyone else’s driveway; we can’t use a city fire truck to pump out someone’s flooded basement. We can’t use city trucks to haul away the branch that fell in the church’s parking lot. Our fire inspectors can’t accept free lunch at the restaurant where he’s doing the inspection (although he can pay for his own lunch). We have to avoid any impropriety, or ever THE APPEARANCE of impropriety, because we are beholden to the taxpayers for our behavior. It probably sounds really anal to folks who work in private companies, particularly smaller ones ; but this is state law, as well as city policy; it’s not optional.

      1. Observer*

        What makes you say that? Even without the OP’s response to this comment, it’s worth noting that this is the EXACT correct response in many situation – even where the “culture” allows it. Because in many cases all of this stuff is against regulations or the law and places the organization at great risk.

  74. mcr-red*

    I still am unsure about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. I’d guess roughly half of the 20 people I work with on a daily basis got the flu shot. Between the months of late December and March, all 20 out of 20 got the flu at some point. The first two to show signs of the flu were the two that I know for sure got the flu shot.

    1. Not A Manager*

      People have a tendency to call any bad cold “the flu.” Flu is a really hideous experience. Unless your colleagues were all actually tested for influenza, I’d be cautious about assuming that their “flu” was anything other than a cold virus.

      1. mcr-red*

        It was not sneezing/runny nose kind of thing. It was body aches, fever, and a cough, for about a week. I know for sure one person got tested and was told it was the flu and considering everyone had the exact same symptoms over those months, I’m just gonna assume everyone had the same thing.

        All I know is I felt the worst I had in a long time when I had it, I had about a week or so when I felt better, and THEN I got a cold virus. I hated this winter.

      2. Quandong*

        +1 to Not A Manager.

        The flu vaccine reduces the severity of symptoms for people who have caught the virus, it doesn’t completely prevent people from catching it. The lives of many individuals have been saved through getting the vaccine prior to catching the virus later during flu season.

        Unless your coworkers all got tested for the flu and shared their test results, you can’t know what virus they had caught.

        Don’t base your confidence in the flu vaccine on what happened at your workplace.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      The vaccine isn’t 100% effective and strains can always crop up that this year’s vaccine doesn’t protect against. But your coworkers did not get the flu because of the vaccine.

  75. Free Meerkats*

    In my experience most of the pro-plague folks are too young to have seen the preventable diseases. I’m 62 and proudly sport the smallpox scar on my left arm. My mother was a twin who lost her sister when they were young to something now preventable. An aunt used crutches due to polio. You can bet we got all our vaccinations when they were available. And pox parties were mainly so everyone got it at the same time and a household/neighborhood wasn’t shut down for weeks as it moved through the population. I’ve lived through school being closed due to measles or chicken pox rampaging in the kids.

    Those who say “it’s just a little rash” are deluding themselves – I remember it; sharing the “fun” with my brothers and sister. I also had shingles before the vaccine was available; don’t recommend it. Deliberately giving your child chicken pox so they’ll be immune to it as an adult is setting them up for much pain late in life if you successfully inculcate your pro-plague attitude in them.

    As far as I’m concerned, we should eliminate all vaccine exemptions that aren’t health-related, and set up real doctors to do exams for those exemptions, not quacks like Dr Oz. That’s right, no exemption based on whatever your particular religious sect says. If you really want out of vaccines, you are welcome to all move to this island off the coast we’ve reserved for you and your kind. Or we could wall off part of some empty desert for them. Whatever, just remove them from society.

    We successfully eradicated smallpox, we could do the same with many of the other diseases if people weren’t stupid.

    1. MommyMD*

      One day small pox will walk into the ER. I guarantee it. We have posters in staff areas that differentiate small pox from chickenpox. Look for the return of polio if this madness continues.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        Yeah, there’s a lot of concern that the melting tundra/permafrost will loose smallpox and who knows what other historic diseases. It’s already been demonstrated that the 1918 flu virus survived in the frozen bodies of arctic shipwreck victims.

        1. MommyMD*

          Yet people believe the Jenny McCarthy’s of the world over decades of proven science. It’s all a conspiracy.

  76. MommyMD*

    From day one I’ve never had any coworkers on my social media friend list let alone a manager. If I see FB suggesting a coworker I block the person so they can’t even find me.

  77. Tristan Callan*

    Letter #1:
    Where I work, all the standard vaccines/boosters are required including the flu shot. Staff are able to opt out of taking the flu shot, but must wear a mask during flu season (as declared by the state Health Commissioner). This is a hospital, so we must follow this procedure by regulation, but maybe you and a group of coworkers could propose a similar system. It seems fair to me, as it does allow people to opt out for any reason they see fit (even if that reason is wildly unscientific) but rightfully places the onus on them to take other measures to reduce the risk of transmission.

    1. Quandong*

      Taking action at the workplace by proposing measures to reduce transmission of viruses sounds like an excellent way for LW1 to harness some of their legitimate anger with their pro-plague coworker. It may also help others to feel more confident to squash the pro-plague one when they share their dangerous views at work.

  78. Iris*

    LW #4 You don’t have to unfriend your manager, you can simply unfollow them. I work from home and it was strongly recommended I join Facebook for work. My boss does look down on people who don’t join or don’t want to be active on the Facebook page and we do use it for work. It definitely created some boundary issues for me and it was just distracting me from my work. What I did is I started unfollowing people, starting with those who post a lot, which my boss does. I loved it so much that I unfollowed everybody. I unfollowed all my groups except my work group. If you unfollow someone, they won’t know, but they may know if you follow them again. You’re still friends with them. You can even click on them and check out their posts, like them and comment, etc. But it’s truly taking your control back and deciding how much time you will spend on it. I love it so much I’m not going back and if anyone asks I will say I unfollowed everybody because Facebook was distracting me from work and that’s the truth. Having a small circle of real friends definitely helps in that case and I did delete some online “friends” who only friended me because they wanted to sell me something. As far as what you post on your page, well, I don’t post political things or hardly any but definitely feel like I have to act on my personal page as if I’m at work, therefore, no politics, religion etc., if I do make that kind of post it’s very rare. You could also make groups and post certain things only for certain friends to see but I just don’t use Facebook that much other than work and some groups.

    1. Iris*

      Maybe if I change jobs, I will use Facebook the way it’s meant to be used but I absolutely love my current setup, it took me some time to figure it out and get to it. I love my job and I was able to minimize this issue almost completely now. I can definitely see the boundary issues created and I experienced them.

      1. Iris*

        I totally understand that but you can be more aware of what you post or choose not to post anything or not anything too personal and you can even delete old posts.

  79. Iris*

    I still use the Facebook work page and can do it even if I unfollow everybody. your situation may be different but even if you unfollow somebody you can check on them as opposed to seeing all their posts in real time. Saves a ton of time.

  80. Not So NewReader*

    OP#2. Please just ask her. If you are good at humor and your boss is used to your humor, ask her, “Trying to get rid of me so soon?” or something like that.

    I have been both on the receiving and giving end of this scenario. In both cases most of the jobs were part time, to ensure the recipient would find work that dovetailed with current job. But I have seen it with full time work also.

    I had an uncle who managed a department for a well-known company in his state. He used to regularly point out jobs to his people that paid more. Counter-intuitively, the people stayed with my uncle. Why, well in part because it made them really think. They realized they were happy where they were at. And he did it also in part because he wanted them to know that they are successful and they can enjoy success at other jobs, too. This made for happy employees.

    If you don’t want to use the humor approach then just ask, “Why do I have these ads?”

  81. Not So NewReader*

    #3 I work on a couple boards plus my job and ethics stuff comes up often enough that it is good to be comfortable with saying, “Gee, I really don’t think I should be doing that.” And they will give you a puzzled look. So you pretend that you genuinely think they don’t know and you explain briefly. “I think that could go into an ethics question and I don’t even want people beginning to question what I am doing. I want to play a square game.”

    Notice how I only talk about my ethics and I am not trying to tell the person what to do. This is a softer approach I use at first. If they push, then I arise to the occasion. “No, I don’t think we should be using government equipment on our own projects. ” I get more specific with pushy people. Almost 100% of the time, I don’t have to say it twice.

    This is drawing your lines early. It’s not fun. But it’s far worse if you have to draw you lines later because you did not speak up.

    1. One of Those People*

      Alison asked that we refrain from talking about antivaxxers but I’d just like to point out that you’re wrong, measles isn’t killing children. There hasn’t been a single death from measles in 4 years, despite all these “outbreaks”, and only 20 or so deaths this century.

      I’m going to stop now because I don’t want to threadjack, but I’m pretty sure inflammatory language (“you’re killing children”) is against the TOS for this site.

  82. Not A Manager*

    “I never want to live in a world that mandates me injecting chemicals and diseases in my child. That’s scary to me…”

    I never want to live in a world that forces me to give my child food and water. I never want to live in a world that mandates I strap my child into a seat in the car rather than letting her roam free. I never want to live in a world that requires my child to wear a fishbowl on her head when she rides her bike.

    I never want to live in a world that requires me to take affirmative steps to keep my own child safe, and the children of others, as well.

  83. ..Kat..*

    LW 1. Since your friend is hospitalized, tell the nurses your issue and ask that you be shown how to do “reverse isolation.” In fact, they already may be having all visitors do this since he is immunocompromised and ill with a transmittable disease.

    Some things to keep in mind: one, washing hands with soap and water (scrub for 20 seconds) is the key thing that healthcare workers do to prevent passing infections from one patient to another. (Also, dry your hands with a paper towel and use that towel as a barrier when you turn off the faucet handle. Faucet handles are very germy.) Waterless hand gels are good also, but not effective against all diseases (and you probably don’t want a lecture on infectious diseases right now). Two, don’t wear fleece. My hospital has banned bedside workers from wearing fleece. Turns out, germs do not wash out of fleece as easily as they do other clothing.

    Hope this helps. If you still don’t want to visit in person, can you Skype? Being hospitalized can be lonely and depressing. Visitors can be such a blessing for the ill.

  84. One of Those People*

    I’m an unvaccinated adult (we’re old enough to be in the workforce now). I don’t “broadcast” my unvaxxed/antivax status but I wouldn’t be surprised if my coworkers knew, as there is a flu shot program at my workplace and it usually comes up when I decline the invite to go.

    If it helps, OP (as it probably won’t), know that you interact with lots of unvaccinated people and don’t know it, you always have, and you have been and will be fine. We aren’t cesspools of disease, walking toilet seats ready to infect you, your friend, and the masses. Quite frankly, it’s a little insulting to suggest we are.

    If you don’t want to work with your coworkers, that’s your choice, but it’s on you to remove yourself from the situation, not the other way around. Or you could peacefully coexist with people who have a different viewpoint than you do. Your choice.

    1. Observer*

      Why is it on the OP to remove themselves from a danger THAT YOU CREATED?

      This is not about “different viewpoints”. It’s about a decision to do something that puts other people at risk.

      1. One of Those People*

        There is absolutely no reason to believe that her coworkers are dangerous as a general state of being. The OP is needlessly afraid and is, in her mind, making her coworkers an enemy when she doesn’t need to. If her coworkers came into work with measles, sure, send them home, and reprimand them for coming in sick. But there is absolutely no reason to believe that her coworkers are a threat if they’re not sick, or that they ARE sick/carrying disease all the time.

        If OP wants to see and treat her coworkers like the lepers she thinks they are, then it’s on her.

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