how do I talk to my anti-vaccine coworker?

A reader writes:

I would love some advice on working with people who do not want to get a COVID vaccine. It seems so obvious to me that vaccination is the only way out of this dark age, and I’m really losing patience with one of my teammates who refuses to get the shot.

Before the pandemic we were allowed two WFH days per week, if we wanted them. In March 2020, we went fully remote and the company took good care of us, offering stipends for new home office furniture, etc. In July 2021 (when the vaccine was readily available to all adults in my area) the office building opened in what they are calling “phase 1” to anyone who wants to come back, as often as they please, as long as you wear a mask and sign an attestation saying you got the vaccine.

They just announced at the latest company-wide meeting that starting in mid-January (a solid four months away, plenty of time for stuff to change) they will expect everyone to come to the office at least one day a week, and you will need to show proof of your vaccine to enter the building. The email they sent around after with meeting wrap-up notes said something like, “Here at [Company] we firmly believe vaccination is a necessary step toward a COVID-free world,” and I feel good knowing that I work for a company that believes in that. They also gave us extra PTO to go get the vaccine (up to two hours for each dose) and on top of that, another full day of PTO for vaccine side effects.

However, one of my teammates on my five-person team, “Lara,” keeps saying that no one in her family is vaccinated and never will be. She doesn’t give a reason, just says “no” super nonchalantly whenever it comes up. But after that meeting, she is constantly whining about how she is going to get fired for not getting the shot. She keeps going on rants about how it is so unfair that she will get fired and she is so mad and how could they do this to us and so on. It is getting to the point where I want to scream, “THEN JUST GET VACCINATED AND YOU WON’T NEED TO WORRY ABOUT IT.” For what it’s worth, I don’t think she will actually get fired since we have remote work as an option. And if she can’t get vaccinated for a medical reason, she would just need a note from her doctor (that’s straight from the corporate email communication).

I have gotten so close, so many times, to saying something like “do you mind sharing why you don’t plan to get vaccinated?” or “do you have any questions about vaccines because I have some great sources.” But I’m so scared it isn’t my business and I don’t want to damage our good working relationship. However, I am training her to take over a certain part of my job, and the fact that she refuses to get vaccinated is making me doubt her ability to do her job. If Lara can’t recognize something as obvious as vaccines save lives, how can she recognize if something is off in our system?

I am so tired of this pandemic and I’m really losing my patience with Lara (and other unvaccinated people). But I don’t want to sound like I’m on a soap box or calling her out, so when this comes up I try to just give general pro-vaccine advice. Do you have any suggestions on how to start and have this conversation, if at all? Do you think I have a reason to worry it is affecting her work?

I would love to believe you can change Lara’s mind and maybe you can … but the chances are high that you can’t. Do you have the stomach for that conversation with a coworker if that’s the case?

Maybe I’m overly influenced by my own utter fatigue with the situation, but I would just not be up for taking this on at work. I salute anyone who can do it successfully! But I’m hesitant to suggest that you engage.

If you google “how to talk about vaccine hesitancy,” you’ll find a lot of advice from people with more expertise in this than me if you want to try.

But rather than getting into it with someone who’s shown so little propensity toward logic, reason, or science — and who is clearly being governed by other forces — the other option is to focus on getting her to stop ranting around you.

There’s no reason you should need to listen to Lara’s diatribes, at work or anywhere. The next time she starts in, you could simply shut it down. For example: “I really don’t want to hear more about this. Please stop.” Or, “I disagree strongly with what you’re saying, and I’m not interested in continuing to hear about it. Let’s focus on work.” Or, “Wow. We disagree, so let’s just move on.”

If she continues after that, you’d have my blessing to say, “I think what you’re saying is absurd and I’m not going to keep listening to it. Is there anything work-related we need to cover before we end this call?”

As for whether Lara’s bad judgment in this area should make you doubt her work in general … there’s an argument for yes and if she had a job that involved science or medicine, I’d definitely say yes. But the reality is that because Covid has been so thoroughly politicized, it’s hard to say that decisively. People like Lara have been subjected to a tremendous amount of misinformation from sources they trust, sources that have been in a position to shape public discourse (to say nothing of some communities’ mistrust of the medical establishment given our history of racist public health practices). Lara’s decision is clearly terrible judgment — but she’s also being preyed upon by political forces that are using mass delusion for their own gains. You could argue that plenty of other people have been able to see past that and what does it mean that she can’t … but while Lara is part of the problem, she’s not the root of it.

And of course, what you’re grappling with is the workplace version of what so many people are struggling with right now with family members and others in their communities — the shock of “who are you?” and “how do we move forward when I have learned this devastating thing about who you are and your willingness to inflict harm on others?”

The best you can do in a work situation is probably to look at what you see of Lara’s work and her judgment aside from this and decide accordingly. But you’re not wrong to be struggling with it. I think that struggle is going to reverberate for all of us for a long time.

{ 659 comments… read them below }

      1. AnonInCanada*

        And a face shield and proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken between 24 and 48 hours before your term of engagement with Ms. Anti-vaxxer. Which she has to pay for, by the way.

      2. Kiki*

        Actually, the KN95s are only about 60% approved because of how they’re made in bulk and with lower standards. N95 is your best bet, but even then it’s only 95% effective.

    1. Salad Daisy*

      This sound like that old joke where a man goes up to another man on the street and asks “How do you get to Symphony Hall?” The other man replies “Practice!”

    2. Princesss Sparklepony*

      I was thinking the same. Everybody masked. Think about getting a clear umbrella to point at her if you have to be in person. Open the umbrella as a shield.

  1. Chairman of the Bored*

    Most of the anti-vax people I know are also believers that employers should be able to fire any employee they wish at any time, for any reason or no reason at all.

    I like to remind them of this when they complain that they’re going to lose their jobs because they can’t be bothered to get 2 shots.

    1. Lacey*

      Yes, I’ve pointed this out to some of my friends who I get into more political conversations with – they get upset when vaccines are required for employment or for partaking in an event and I just mildly say, “Yes, but you know they do have the right to operated their business as they please. It is a free market” and they have no choice but to nod their heads sadly.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        You’re lucky yours just nod their heads. Mine suddenly care about bodily autonomy (after having been against supporting any other type of bodily autonomy) and don’t understand the difference between a vaccine and the other places we discuss bodily autonomy in our society.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Didn’t you know that only applies to “others” who are fired? When it is their job on the line it is the “lib’ral-commie gov’mt taking away freedoms” and shouldn’t be allowed. (snark font)
      Yes, I live in a deeply red state.

      1. Carol the happy elg*

        Thank you! One of these days I’m going to hear someone screaming this until their throat bleeds, and then someone will slap my face,
        And I will discover it was me….

      2. Princesss Sparklepony*

        Yes, communism/socialism is when my neighbor gets a handout. When I get a handout it’s pure capitalism and how the system should work. In fact, I should get more than I got….

        That’s the logic…

    3. Archaeopteryx*

      “It’s sooo unfair that I might be fired for not getting vaccinated!”
      “Actually it’s extremely fair. Have a good weekend! Bye!”

    4. Miss Muffet*

      The venn diagram of anti-vaxxers and people who think folks should suffer consequences for not complying with rules is pretty big. But as someone else mentioned, that seems to just apply to “other people”.

      1. Meep*

        I have an (anti-vaxxer) coworker this has never rung more true for. Whether it is asking her to stop taking things out of my desk to asking her to stop treating me poorly, she will flip it around and blame someone else (usually the President) and act like the boundary I just put into place doesn’t apply to her. It is frustrating because they often make you feel like the bad guy. I think many people (and myself) are realizing for the first time just how largely this applies to EVERYTHING because vaccines should be cut and dry – you get them for yourself and others – and they are taking the hard stance of “nuh-uh! moi freedom. *eagle screech*”

        1. Erica*

          LOL. I would love to hear how it’s somehow Joe Biden’s fault she can’t take things from your desk!

          1. DonnaMartinGraduates!*

            … as would I. What the actual…? You gotta come up with a more forceful script for the way this co-worker manages to make you the bad guy. #ShutItDown

          2. Ben*

            Obviously, government shock troops are sneaking into her house at night with their mind control rays and programming her to be a kleptomaniac while she sleeps!

        2. turquoisecow*

          This reminds me of my conservative anti-vax uncle, who blames the president for the price of the ancient answering machine he bought at the thrift store.

        3. LibraryLady*

          INFO: Do you work in the WH and Joe Biden told her to grab things out of your desk? If so, she has solid reasoning and you should absolutely cut her a break. He’s the President, after all. /s

        4. It's Growing!*

          You: Carol, I’ve asked you before to not take things out of my desk. Why are you still doing it?
          Coworker: Well Sleepy Joe blah, blah, blah, unfair, my rights, etc. etc.
          You: I’m talking about you taking things from my desk. Do you understand that I telling you to stop taking my things?
          Coworker: Blah, blah, blah
          You: We’re talking about you taking things from my desk. Do I need to report you for taking things from my desk? (Rinse and repeat)

          The trick is to refuse to engage on any other topic, laser focus right there. Her complaint of the day will always be there and there is no point in engaging, so don’t. Use the same tactic anytime she goes off on a tirade, don’t engage. In one ear and out the other.

        5. Kevin Sours*

          “It is frustrating because they often make you feel like the bad guy”
          Some days you just have to channel your inner asshole and power through this sort of thing.

    5. James*

      I tend to lean Libertarian–I don’t care what you do so long as you do it with consenting adults–and I view this as a fantastic test of the convictions of those who call themselves that.

      Someone who consistently holds Libertarian views would agree that an employer has the right to mandate vaccines as a condition of employment. In many cases they are obviously necessary–for example, cleanup of landfills that contain medical waste or bio-warfare agents (yes, this happens–did one, turned down the other). Regardless of the logic of it, the Libertarian position is that the property owner gets to set the rules; it’s one of the main reasons they give for HAVING property rights. As the owner of the money, the company gets to decide the terms on which they are willing to part with it.

      Obviously a Libertarian is also going to agree that you have every right to walk away from a business you disagree with–employment is not ownership, after all, it’s an exchange. Anyone with serious objections to vaccinations has that option, and no doubt businesses attracting unvaccinated employees will arise to compete fairly in the marketplace of ideas. For about a week. Then the employees will suffer the consequences of their actions, and most will come to their senses.

      It’s the same with patronizing businesses. It’s a business’s right, under the Libertarian view, to refuse service to anyone for any reason. The business owns the goods and the land, and it’s a violation of property rights and the principle of Freedom of Association to force someone to sell something to someone else. Well, I don’t want to sell my products to unvaccinated people. That’s my right. Go shop somewhere else. A real Libertarian must necessarily agree with this sentiment. (While there can be debate as to whether the government should have contractors, so long as it does the government has the same right as any other clients–including the right to a say in the terms and conditions of the contracts they agree to.)

      What this pandemic has exposed is that most people who consider themselves Libertarian are of the “liberty for me but not for thee” flavor. They’re all for having rights, but the instant they have to respect YOUR rights they get all up in arms. These aren’t Libertarians in any meaningful sense; they’re children throwing a temper tantrum.

      For the record, and before I catch too much flak, I believe the government has a right to mandate vaccinations. The government exists, in large part, to defend its citizens. Like an invasion, a pandemic is a clear situation where coordinated efforts are necessary, and the national government is the only entity with the capacity to engage in such efforts on a scale sufficient to have real impacts. This is quite literally the reason the government exists. Ayn Rand, of all people, used this exact situation as an example of a situation where the normal rules get suspended and the government has not just the right, but the obligation to step in and take action (her essay on the ethics of emergencies).

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Of course you do. You’re renting, your landlord gives you the OK to repaint, and you hire a painter. You may choose to hire only one who is vaccinated.

        2. James*

          I’m not sure how you got that from what I wrote. You’re wrong, for a few reasons.

          First, property rights aren’t ALL rights under Libertarian philosophy. Freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to self-defense–none of these rely on property, at least not fundamentally. Property certainly helps in the practice of these rights, but you can say whatever you want just by speaking or signing. SOME Libertarians justify PROPERTY rights by arguing that it establishes priority in determining solutions to conflicts of interest–the one who owns the property sets the rules, the other person accepts them or goes elsewhere.

          Second, it’s pretty much impossible to not own property. Remember, “property” isn’t just real estate. And under Libertarianism you own yourself. This isn’t a minor thing; it’s caused some fairly intense debates. For example, can you sell yourself into slavery? After all, you can dispose of your property as you wish, right? Including selling it to someone else. There’s an inherent contradiction, though–as a slave you don’t own property, ergo whatever you sold yourself for reverts back to the person you sold yourself to, negating the sale. Note that self-ownership is considered an inherent property of ALL humans. This includes children. Yes, there are debates over just how to apply this.

          I’m neither going to justify nor defend this interpretation (I don’t even agree with it); I’m just using it to point out that this is something Libertarians take very seriously, which renders a total lack of property impossible to a Libertarian applying the philosophy consistently.

          Also, please remember that I don’t fully agree with the philosophy. My point was that the response to Covid is a good test to see if a self-proclaimed Libertarian is honest or not. An honest Libertarian can have a case against government mandates for vaccines, but not against company mandates for vaccines.

          1. Jay Gobbo*

            Not trying to start beef with James or any other libertarian on this site — but what I’ve found is that libertarians have these big dream ideas that ignore the institutionalized racism, sexism, etc. in our country that have always made things extremely unequal and unfair. It’s all well and good to say “I want the government to stay out of my body”, but the problem is the American government has been making laws FOR CENTURIES to get their grubby paws on our bodies. In order to get rid of those inequalities we’d have to raze the playing field and start over.

            As another example, it sounds great to say “I support you being queer/trans/etc and the government should stay out of your xyz” — but DOMA wasn’t that long ago, folks, and state governments RIGHT NOW are feverishly enacting “bathroom bills” that explicitly exist to harm trans people.

            The point is this — marginalized people need PROTECTION. Since we can’t raze the playing field and start over, imo it’s the government’s job to *protect* and *raise up* historically marginalized people to *make* the playing field more equal. We do *not* live in this ideal libertarian world where we can magically make those prejudices go away. Only privileged cishet white guys can afford to dream of that sh*t \eyeroll\

            As La Triviata said — the concern is all about “rights” but not “responsibility”, i.e. responsibility to your community and your country. Libertarians are often “leave me alone, don’t tread on me” etc and they don’t think about / don’t care about marginalized groups in their communities.

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          But property refers to anything that’s yours, so under the terms of a lease, you have a bundle of rights for a fixed term. As a renter, you have the right to insist on the landlord keeping your home in good repair. A landlord has the right to expect an agreed amount of rental income…

          Your intellectual property counts too.

        4. BabyElephantWalk*

          Not quite, but you’ve hit on part of my problem with libertarianism. It’s inherently classist because many rights are tied to ownership and power.

      1. OHCFO*

        James- this is the BEST explanation of the ideological clusterf%#^ situation we are in that I have read in ages. I have the utmost respect for people who hold true to their ideologies, even wife they differ from my own. But this “liberty for me but not for thee” BS is making my brain explode on the daily.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        I tend towards disagreeing with Libertarians, but not least because Libertarians tend towards the contradictions you cite right here as the “liberty for me if not for thee”. But if they all sounded like you do here, I feel like we could find a lot more common ground. Nicely said.

          1. BabyElephantWalk*

            So much of this. I no longer debate with people who talk about their rights without concern for responsibility or in some days displaying compassion for how their rights interact with others.

      3. TQB*

        I have a friend who is strongly Libertarian, in the manner that you describe. He is incredible well-informed and articulate, and most of all, ideologically consistent. If people want to talk about “common ground” that’s the key: believe what you believe, but be honest where your beliefs are maybe not completely coherent and/or suggest a position that you cannot reconcile.

    6. Mme. Briet’s Antelope*

      I would be deeply tempted to respond to Lara’s complaints that she might get fired with “Good,” but then, I have never claimed to be a good or particularly mature person.

  2. too many too soon*

    When I encounter people whining about being fired for vax refusal my response is ‘good’.

    1. Xantar*

      Either OP really likes Lara or just has extra wells of compassion that I don’t have. Honestly if Lara started whining in the workplace about how she’s going to be fired for not getting vaccinated, my reaction would just be to internally shrug and then count down the days until I don’t have to listen to her any more. It is simply Not My Problem.

      1. Yeah, no*

        And that’s exactly where I’m at. My employer has made it clear that anyone not fully vaccinated by a certain (very soon) date will be dismissed, only exceptions being medical and religion. Ordinarily I don’t think we should ever be threatening livelihoods if employees don’t conform to blanket rules, but at this I could not possibly care any less. I have no compassion or sympathy left. None.

        1. WomEngineer*

          That’s where mine is at too. Personally, I’d be okay if companies provided regular testing for employees who aren’t vaccinated. But vaccinating everyone is probably better for lowering cases.

          1. James*

            As of now, “routine testing” consists of tests every 72 hours. That’s 2-3 tests a week per employee. Every week.

            While there are at-home tests, only those which are approved by the CDC are considered acceptable, and doctors need to be involved (how depends on the kit). Last time I looked, it was around $100 for the necessary weekly tests for each employee. $5,200 per year. For every employee.

            If you have 10 employees making around $60k/yr, that means someone’s getting fired.

            Bear in mind, the person I saw buy the tests is known for being able to find deals. This is the low end of the cost estimate. Mots companies will pay significantly more.

            1. zillah*

              This. Also, while tests are great, all they mean is that you aren’t testing positive right then. That’s good information to have, but it’s not something I’d be willing to trust on a regular basis without additional measures that it’s unlikely that anti-vaxxer is taking. I have seen way too many people over the past year test negative, go into quarantine, and test positive a few days later with no additional exposures.

              1. Ann Nonymous*

                By the time someone has tested positive, they could have been sick for several days and infecting others along the way. Yes to vaccine mandates.

        2. A Feast of Fools*

          At my company, you can’t come to work or drive company vehicles drunk or high; you can’t talk on a cellphone while driving a forklift; you have to wear closed-toe boots, ear protection, goggles, and a safety vest on the factory floors; you can’t wear jeans at the corporate offices. Break any of those rules and my company will fire you without a second thought.

          The first two are most closely related to getting a vaccine. Even if you don’t care about your own life or health, you can’t come to work and endanger others.

          The third one is tangentially related to getting a vaccine. My company would rather you not injure yourself on the job, ever, but especially not because you were disregarding established safety protocols.

          The last one is just to point out that companies can require pretty much anything legal from their employees as a condition of employment.

          Two of my team members and one of my managers are not vaccinated and have no plans to do so. They also never put on a mask unless asked, and even then they pull it down or “dicknose” it, making you have to constantly remind them to put the mask back on or pull the mask up. I’ve told my manager and our grandboss that I will either continue to work remotely if these antivaxxers are in the office (and I’m expected to interact with them) or I will find another job.

          I am so very, very tired of antivaxxers and maskholes killing other people and being willing hosts for the virus to mutate in.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            The examples you give are also required to keep insurance rates down. I spent enough time in the insurance industry that I anticipate underwriters looking at the cold hard numbers and setting higher rates for unvaccinated individuals. Both health & life insurance.

              1. Princesss Sparklepony*

                I think they are now putting higher rates into play. At a certain point I think they put down the vaccine resistance to availability and time. Well, time has passed and availability is good, so now it’s just people being dumb and stubborn. So in come the rate rises. I’m fine with that.

        3. Polly Gone*

          Our employer just announced that people refusing to be vaccinated after the well-publicized deadline of October 1 are subject to a pay dock one day a week. Should be super interesting to see how that plays out.

          1. Panela*

            is the pay dock purely punitive or is it supposed to cover the cost of testing the anti-vaxxers?

            [obligatory “I’m very pro-vax, fully vaccinated myself, etc.”, I’m just curious]

      2. SpaceySteph*

        This plus scooting my chair another foot away.

        I have said many times that ultimately it is good for the medical field that all these “nurses” who don’t believe in modern medicine are leaving.

    2. Nia*

      Yep. Hopefully for the LW this problem will solve itself in January and I would not be shy about telling Lara I was looking forward to it.

    3. Pants*

      Hospitals in my city terminated a lot of people months ago because they refused to get vaccinated. People who work in hospitals. Most of which were nurses. I don’t get it. That’s like becoming a pharmacist and then refusing to dispense medication because you belong to a religion that doesn’t believe in medicine. I (and the sane population) applauded the hospitals in standing firm and being willing to take it to the courts, which they did when the anti-vaxxers sued, and the hospitals won. If I found out a nurse caring for me at the hospital wasn’t vaccinated, I’d be apoplectic. Of course, it doesn’t stop them constantly whining but they’re more often than not met with the “good!” if they’re not talking to their own. This pandemic has upped the number of vocal idiots than the last 5 years have.

        1. TM*

          Interesting! I did not know that. I do know, however, enough nurses who fall into this anti-vac camp to come to the conclusion that nurses are not so much learning science at nursing school.

          1. quill*

            Well, there’s different qualities of nursing schools too. Some of the degree mill ones are turning out nurses left and right… and they tend to overlap with the griftier side of american christianity as well.

          2. anon here today*

            Had a friend with a hefty science background who went to nursing school ’cause her grades in quantum physics tanked her chances of med school (like I said, hefty sci background, engineering school that ends with Institute of Technology, but she wanted to help people directly due to some family events she experienced). She dropped out of nursing school within about a month — she said she felt like she was treated like an idiot, the program was mostly about following checklists, she didn’t feel like it was following the science…. Not all programs, for sure, but it does sound like some do not really foster critical thinking.

          3. SpaceySteph*

            I don’t think its common anymore as most nursing programs are at least BSN, but there are nursing roles for which only an associates degree is required. I suspect those programs tend to focus on teaching practical skills (here’s HOW to hang an IV, here’s HOW to set up a EKG, etc) and much less on general scientific principles.

            1. AntsOnMyTable*

              Actually it is very common to have an ADN vs a BSN. Community colleges graduate tons of nursing students. Many employers will require a BSN after like 2 years of start of employment. The BSN part doesn’t do anything. You get any of your critical thinking skills from pre-reqs and the basic nursing education. The BSN part is mainly busy work to get a degree.

        2. Nea*

          All the more reason to fire them, as far as I’m concerned. Newborns are particularly vulnerable to all kinds of things and shouldn’t be exposed to anti-vaxxers of any sort.

          1. SuperBB*

            This! I saw an interview where one of those nurses responded to that exact scenario with: “I’m a professional. I know how to use PPE and take precautions.” Hundreds of doctors and nurses contracted COVID last year while caring for ill patients despite using PPE. It’s not foolproof.

            1. Pants*

              I have a friend who’s a nurse and was on the frontlines in New York when they had refrigerator trucks everywhere for bodies and had boxes to the ceiling of body bags but couldn’t get PPE. (I sent him handmade masks and they were using those to double up.) He got it. He stayed in a hotel for months to not expose his wife and kids. Two of the 3 kids got it anyway. Luckily somehow, the newborn did not. I just don’t get it.

        3. Sandangel*

          That just makes it worse, since that means they’re unvaccinated around infants and newborns.

      1. Sara without an H*

        When the vaccines first came out, I was a little nervous about the speed with which they’d been brought to market. But I was able to talk with a faculty member in our nursing program (it’s one of our biggest majors). She had connections with people who did research in public health, and she assured me that none of the scientific steps had been skipped, just the bureaucratic ones. (It made me wonder what all that red tape is really for, but that’s another rant.)

        So because I talked with actual nursing professors — I was at the public health clinic with my sleeve rolled up as soon as my age group qualified.

        Short version: nurses do learn science in nursing programs. But they’re not immune to other cultural and political factors, and they can compartmentalize extremely well.

        1. Berkeleyfarm*

          Yeah, I used to work in biotech and was a little skeptical, but I’d also had the benefit of being on the “other side” of a previous fast track effort (HIV/AIDS stuff).

          An ex coworker who stayed in the business reminded me that a lot of the “process time” was either “trying to raise money to go to the next step” or waiting around on the Feds and neither was particularly an issue in this case.

        2. Mockingjay*

          Pharmaceutical companies and researchers have been working for decades on faster (but safe) methods to develop and deploy vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccines are reaping the benefit of some of those researches.

          People: why does it take so long to develop a vaccine? Can’t it be done faster?
          Researchers: we have found ways to develop vaccines faster so we can get them to you now.
          People: We don’t trust something done that quickly.

          I wouldn’t bother trying to convert the coworker. Let the company enforce the policy.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            Anyone else want to ship Lara to the LW who got mad at their employee for asserting herself when the company messed up messed up het paycheck – twice?

          2. Berkeleyfarm*

            Oh yeah! I’d heard that the scientist who originally came up with what became the mRNA delivery process couldn’t get her postdoc/other contract renewed back in the day because TPTB in that institution didn’t see that going anywhere. Now she is on a VERY short list for a Nobel.

          3. Mamma Llama*

            One thing people often forget about when talking about the time for testing vaccines is the prevalence of the disease you are vaccinating against. It was relatively easy to get the numbers to show the effectiveness of the vaccine in a short time because Covid was literally everywhere. If you wanted to test a new measles vaccine it would take way longer to get the same type of numbers that would show that the vaccine was effective and you would likely need to look at alternative ways of proving effectiveness because the number of measles cases just isn’t there.

        3. learnedthehardway*

          I was expecting it to take about 5 years, and was very pleasantly surprised to learn that most of the work had been done around the time of SARS (in 2003), but hadn’t been continued due to lack of funding and the fact that SARS got contained. So it’s not really surprising that they were able to get the vaccine finalized and then just deal with the logistics issues of getting it produced and out to people. Thank goodness for modern medicine!

        4. Chaordic One*

          I was also a bit skeptical about the speed with which they came out, but there was a lag after they came out and before they actually became available to the general public, such as myself and my family. During that period of time it became obvious to me that the risks were far outweighed by the potential benefits.

        5. t4ci3*

          I’ve seen a fair number of people who say that they were nervous about the speed that the vaccine was produced, do you mind explaining why? No one ever includes that part, and it just leaves me wondering what you think making a vaccine involves and how long you thought it should take. For example; labs wait as long as they can before flu season to culture the flu vaccine so that they can choose what looks like the most prevelent strains and get it into pharmacies, what about this particular vaccine had you thinking it should take longer, since Covid-19 is also not a ‘new’ disease but a variant of one we’ve seen before?

          1. Goody*

            Based on my own conversations, a lot of people did not understand that “coronavirus” was an entire classification of organisms, not just this one active infection going around, much less that SARS, MERS and even some variants of the common cold are also coronavirus.

            1. Casper Lives*

              I didn’t know until it hit the news. I don’t keep up with the names of virus strains and I don’t think most would have reason to know. Until it became relevant.

              Also for me, I wasn’t taught how modern vaccines are made. I learned about cowpox and Jenner’s smallpox, then onto the next science topic. I got my shots as soon as I could. But I did read some government and legit health website info on how live flu vaccines work, how the mRNA vaccines work, why the vaccine came out so quickly, etc. before I did.

          2. Casper Lives*

            I can speak to some the reasons. Some that I looked into and some others brought up to me. I got vaccinated as soon as it was available to me btw.

            1. I didn’t know how modern vaccines are made. My school education covered cowpox / smallpox live virus vaccine. Not modern creation and production.

            2. The news about people getting the flu from flu vaccine made people think it’s a live virus and they’ll get covid. A common myth.

            3. Lack of trust in the govt. Love or hate him, Trump increased distrust in the federal govt. Plus health in particular. People old enough to remember thalidomide think medication can get approved too quickly without side effects known. Safeguards have been put in place to stop that from happening again, but the approval process isn’t widely known.

            4. It was widely politicized. Even though the current administration and Trump both urged people to get vaccinated.

            5. Everyone is scared. We’re in pandemic panic. It’s nerve wracking to be told to get something new. Vaccines aren’t new but this one is.

            I’m sure there are more. Like some neighbors in my Deep South state who moved the goalposts. First the vaccine was not approved with emergency use not enough. Now they don’t think the vaccine has been out long enough to know long term effects. They’re not getting the vaccine. (Although I can report some coworkers who didn’t make it a priority to get vaccinated did comply with my company’s upcoming vaccine mandate. They weren’t anti vaccine. Just had other things they considered more pressing and usually no one they knew had a bad case of covid.)

            1. prufrock*

              On a side note, thalidomide was a case where in the US, a reviewer for the FDA blocked its release despite immense pressure by the pharmaceutical company. Dr. Frances Kelsey received a President’s Award for her actions that ensured that out of the 10,000+ victims worldwide, only 17 were in the US.

              The story doesn’t inspire a lot of trust in pharmaceutical companies, especially if you’re not in the US, but it certainly shows that these regulatory organizations’ whole point is to protect the public.

              1. Pants*

                1: Love the name
                2: Love that you came in with thalidomide facts. It’s one of my “rabbit hole” subjects.

                1. prufrock*

                  Thanks! Multiple of my favourite podcasts have covered thalidomide recently. While overall, it’s a pretty bleak story that only gets worse as you dig deeper, Dr. Frances Kelsey is the one spot of goodness and hope for humanity. I would love if every time thalidomide came up, we also thought of her and her heroic scientific rigour.

        6. pandop*

          For me, working in a university, I was reasonably aware of how much stuff is dependent on, and delayed by applying for, external funding. So with everyone from governments to Dolly Parton throwing money at this, then that huge delaying factor suddenly vanishes.

          Which demonstrates what can be achieved when you lets scientists do science, rather than write grant applications!

        7. Birch*

          Sometimes bureaucratic red tape has a purpose, in the context of a normally functioning organization. Example: I’m trying to get some funding for a project. Normally, I have to submit a formal proposal by a certain deadline before a committee meeting that happens quarterly. The committee discusses my proposal at the meeting and votes on whether to approve, and if not, what changes need to be made. I have to get approval from collaborators before submitting the proposal, and then approval from them again before accepting the final funding offer. The purpose of the red tape is to make sure everyone who is involved has actually seen and approved the plans, and to organize the schedules of the committee, so that they can both review proposals and also get the rest of their work done. In an emergency, I would ask my collaborators to pre-approve my possible decisions XYZ, and go through an expedited process where a shortened proposal could be submitted to a single committee member, who would also be given the permission from the committee to give a response before the official meeting. Then that member and I could negotiate on behalf of everyone else, to save time. Everyone has still signed off, nothing important has been skipped, but if we did it that way every time, the committee members would constantly have to drop their work and respond to proposals and would never get anything else done, and because they’re human, they’ll inevitably lose track of some of them without a clear organizational system to schedule reviews. Multiply that by however many people and approvals medical stuff usually has to go through and the red tape delay starts to make more sense.

        8. Susana*

          The vaccine was developed relatively quickly. The science *behind* the vaccines has been developing for many years.

      2. BluntBunny*

        Unfortunately there have been pharmacist who have refused to prescribe contraception because of their religious beliefs.

        Being anti Vaxx isn’t a logical position to make so you won’t be able to sway them with logical arguments.

        1. Ampersand*

          This sums it up perfectly. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s a good reminder that there’s likely nothing I (or anyone) could say or do to convince someone to get vaccinated at this point. There’s no perfect combination of words that we just haven’t stumbled upon yet that’s going to change someone’s mind.

        2. Pants*

          I know. That’s where I drew the analogy but maybe didn’t show my work well. Math was never a strong suit. :-) I think those pharmacists should be fired too. I’m an admin. If I belonged to a church that is opposed to Excel and refused to work in it, I’d get fired. Get rid of these self-righteous redcaps.

      3. Wendy*

        You say that, but for a VERY long time there was only one pharmacy in my hometown and it was run by a religious organization that did not believe in birth control. Blows my mind that everyone in my 30K town had to go elsewhere for the Pill or condoms and this was just… normal.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Mine is, “Yep, you probably will be. Have you started looking for a new job yet?”

    5. Velawciraptor*

      Mine has become “I guess some people just don’t want to work anymore.”

      Which is not what I’d advise LW to say (work relationships being what they are), but I’m so far past over it I can’t see over it anymore. Over it is a dot to me.

      1. miss chevious*

        A. I love your response and
        B. I assume your last line refers to the Joey/Chandler conversation in which Chandler reveals he has acted on feelings for Joey’s girlfriend, and I love you for it, because I quote that line all the time, and no one gets it!

    6. Quinalla*

      My reply is I wish my employer would do that. My brother’s employer already has and I am super jealous. Mine is doing well regarding safety, etc. but they aren’t and likely won’t require vaccines.

  3. Lacey*

    I would probably not take this on with a coworker, but I think she’s given you a good clue as to what’s going on with her. No one in her family is vaccinated or planning on it. That means that the people she’s close to and probably people she relies on at some level (whether that’s for emotional support, friendship, or actual needs like childcare or housing) are super against the vaccine.

    She’s not spouting off reasons for it, which I would guess means she doesn’t really have one other than it’s what her community is doing.

    It’s hard to convince someone to lose or be at odds with their community, especially if they don’t have another one to jump into. And as a coworker, you’re not going to be in a position to offer that.

    1. AY*

      This is a great point. Lara and her ilk need some sort of off ramp–a way to get the vaccine without feeling that they’ve betrayed their communities or values and without needing to admit that they’ve just been plain wrong. But that’s not something that a coworker can provide.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Good point. The mandate may give Lara the option of saying, “I didn’t want it, but I couldn’t afford to lose my job.” Although even if she takes that option, OP is still stuck listening to her go on about it.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            But OP can just shut that down, like Alison said. Use one of Alison’s scripts, or just say something like, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear you feel that way, but I’m probably the wrong person to vent to. I couldn’t wait to get vaccinated myself. There’s really nothing to it, you know? It’s free, and they use this teeny, tiny needle you can barely feel. I’m really glad I got mine.”

            OP, please note: This is not about trying to change her mind. The key is to keep it casual and breezy and act like getting vaxxed is the most normal, uncontroversial thing in the world. I guarantee she’ll get tired of it and look for someone else to unload on. When people vent, they want sympathy. When she figures out she’s never going to get an iota of that from you, she’ll stop looking at you as someone to complain to. It may take a few tries, but it’ll happen eventually. Right now, she probably thinks you’re sympathetic to her “plight.” Once you make it obvious that you’re not, whining to you won’t be any fun for her anymore.

          2. SpaceySteph*

            Then there’s the people who believe, based on zero actual scientific basis, that vaccinated people are shedding virus/spreading covid. So being vaccinated, even if under threat of losing your job, might get you kicked out of some clubs.

        1. Kim*

          Exactly. We have a few religious towns where I’m from, and the Health services, in conjunction with the local GP’s, just offered vaccines in secret. People could get them while visiting the doctor for other health reasons.
          Personally it beggars belief that this would have to be done in secret but at this point I’ll take what I can get. The more people get the shot, the better for me.

        2. Bilateralrope*

          Not necessarily. Other people have mentioned that, if the vaccine mandate is public knowledge, then staying in the job is telling everyone that they are vaccinated.

          Then there is the issue of hiding side effects if they happen. The sore arm is easy enough, just make up some line about bumping it. But there was no way I could have hidden the exhaustion I felt after my second dose.

          1. Alex*

            I have a friend who lives with her very anti vax family. She’s from a culture where staying in the family home is traditional until marriage, and as a result her parents push into her business more than most American parents. She got the j & j shot in secret and pretended to have the flu during the side effects time period. It can be done. Is it ideal? No. But it’s not impossible.

          2. Bagpuss*

            No, but those are basically flu-like symptoms – so you’ve caught a bug and have a cold / mild dose of the flu / just must be run down.

            I guess the issue if still being employed following vaccine mandates is also potentially something that you can fudge to people who disapprove of the vaccination – e.g. “I thought your employer had a vaccine mandate?” “They do, but there are ways round it” (True: the way round it is you get vaxxed, but people will probably assume that you mean you claimed an exemption or something like that. So you can avoid lying without telling them that you are vxxed, if that’s what you need to do)

    2. Smithy*

      This is an incredibly empathetic and also helpful way to think of a coworker where certainly the rants bring the conversation into the workplace, but also for the OP to be mindful of how much more personally involved they actually want to get.

      And while the politicization of the vaccine gets a lot of attention, the anxiety many people have with healthcare for reasons of community distrust related to racism and poverty as well as simply negative experiences are vast. So while there’s the obvious political can of worms, you could also be pushing against some issues of personal trauma or anxiety that you really may not way to process with a coworker.

      1. I can never decide on a lasting name*

        Agreed, the comment is extremely thoughtful, empathetic and useful!!!

    3. GlitsyGus*

      This is a really good point. Especially since she doesn’t seem to have a good reason, it is possible she’s getting it from all sides outside of work and is tired of hearing about it. Not that that changes whether or not she should get vaccinated or that she should be allowed to continue her rants, of course, but it’s something to consider as far as finding a tiny bit of grace when dealing with her.

      Also, while it is concerning, if you’re training her on something new, ultimately it’s up to her manager if she thinks she can take this on or not. I do think Alison’s advice is right that the best thing you can do right now is just tell her you’re not interested in hearing her nonsense about how this is unfair. She knows what’s being asked of her and how to handle it. If Lara really wants some kind of special exemptions she needs to go up the chain, not bellyache to her coworkers who can’t do anything about it and, honestly, don’t want to hear it.

    4. MarsJenkar*

      In summation, she’s been put in a position where she’ll either be forced to change jobs or alienate her greater family/circle of friends.

      Before, she was relatively calm and nonchalant about not getting vaccinated, because she had the choice to avoid it. But now the company has laid down an ultimatum, and internally, she’s panicking. Because if she keeps her job past the deadline, her family will see it as a betrayal, but at the same time she doesn’t want to lose her job over this. This may well be why she’s going on those rants–it’s her way of venting her growing panic over the situation.

      It doesn’t mean she should be allowed to continue those rants, but it may be why she feels she can’t get vaccinated–cutting herself off from everyone she knows and loves might be a bridge too far.

    5. marvin the paranoid android*

      I think there is benefit to making it less socially comfortable to be an anti-vaxxer, while keeping in mind that reasoned argument is probably not going to win the day here.

      The kinds of responses Alison recommends are good–I wouldn’t want to get stuck in a debate, but just let the coworker know how you feel and move along. If everyone just kind of nods along awkwardly when people spout anti-vaxx rhetoric, it makes it easier for them to believe that others are on their side. Social pressure is largely what makes people buy into conspiracy theories, so I feel like a little social pressure from the other side can’t hurt.

      1. Lacey*

        I agree. I have a few friends and family members who are anti-vax for a range of different reasons.
        Some of them have changed their minds over time from polite social pressure. That’s the tricky part.
        I’ve realized that I pulled back from some relationships with people who weren’t getting vaxed, but what I needed to do was be present in those relationships so they had someone positive in their life saying, “I think you need to get vaxed”

        Now, for the coworker, I don’t think she needs to put that much effort into it. She can just politely say she doesn’t agree. In my personal life I’m trying to be more supportive of friends/family in other ways so that when I say I think they should get the vaccine they’ll see it in the same light.

    6. Esmeralda*

      Yeah, well, I work with college students, some of whom come from families like that. They have gotten their vaccines on campus, even though vaccines are not being required by our university system (students, faculty, and staff who do not provide proof of vaccination must be regularly tested — tests are FREE and available at several locations on campus)

      They’re 18 and extremely reliant on their families. And yet there they are, making an intelligent and ethical choice. They’re not telling their families necessarily, but they’re doing it.

      If Lara is that reliant on her unvaxxed family, she could get vaxxed and just not tell them. It’s not that hard.

      1. MarsJenkar*

        If the family has already heard about the vaccine mandate by this company, it may not be so simple. It may be that Lara is panicking because (she thinks) if she stays with the company after the deadline, her family would take it as a betrayal even if she had managed to negotiate a full-remote position. Hence her overreaction and rants after the mandate was announced.

        I dunno how true that scenario is, but if the mandate was announced publicly, I can imagine that from her perspective, she’s being ordered to make a choice between her family and the company, and the public announcement has made it (according to her view) impossible to hide such a choice.

    7. Quinalla*

      This is very true about it being hard to go against your community. And I also agree that coworkers are typically not in a position to offer a way to help with this community loss or at least conflict.

    1. Eden*

      It’s not any one person’s responsibility of course. But frankly, it’s great if someone can do it. Certain demographic groups’ vaccination rates have dramatically increased thanks to the efforts of those addressing their hesitancy.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Yes, but it really doesn’t sound like the LW has more than a friendly co-worker relationship with Lara, so it doesn’t seem like they’re in a particularly strong position to influence her.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          There’s a real paradox here: Every study of these things shows that when we set out to change someone’s mind, including and especially the mind of people who are clearly basing their argument on faulty premises, is extremely unlikely to succeed. However, just as clearly minds do change.

          In the light of this I’ve adopted a pretty mild, but unyielding attitude. I won’t engage debates. I just say stuff like “If we want to stop dragging this pandemic out much longer, we do in fact get everyone who can get a vaccine vaccinated,” “a friend of mine was in the hospital for 5 days – I want this over with and vaccination is the best thing we have,” “I don’t like mandates either, but the fact is that we need to get people vaccinated,” “a lot of people think they know better, and then they or their loved ones end up in the ICU,” “the responsible thing is for everyone who can to get vaccinated,” and also “I do understtand that this is a scary situation; let’s not take our anxiety out in anger and follow charlatans who tell lies about vaccination”.

          I have no idea how anything lands, but I expect occasionally someone unexpected listens in and their minds get changed. Vaccine mandates have clearly led to large upticks where they’ve been implemented, and I’ve also seen people just turn from private pressure. For example, “you can’t travel here and see your grandkid without vaccination” or the pretty conservative and influential community member whose husband passed away recently from a completely unrelated long-standing disease, and who’s just calmly been positive about a) vaccines and b) the medical services, and who gets followed by example.

          (My hope is that leading by example is the best thing I can do here, better than looking unlikeable and aggressive even if I’m right.)

          1. Quinalla*

            Yes, you aren’t likely to change a mind right that second, but making statements like that in fact can add up to help someone change their own mind. I think it sometimes works better when you aren’t trying to convince anyone, just stating facts.

            Asking questions and really listening and giving information you have if they are interested (ask) is one of the ways it is recommended to change minds. It doesn’t work if you are just using it as a tactic though, you have to really listen.

    2. HiHello*

      That is what I am thinking. If the employer requires a vaccine, Laura will simply not be able to return back to the office. She may end up getting fired and OP will never have to speak to her again.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      It could be that before the Pandemic Lara behaved as a reasonable person at work and generally about most things. Vaccines were not really something disputed as most got them when they were little kids in order to go to school. But now public health is political.

  4. HannahS*

    I’d agree with Alison, that you just shut it down. There’s no reason why Lara should be spared the mild social discomfort of having a co-worker say, “I think you’re wrong and I don’t want to hear you talk about this anymore.” Give yourself the gift of not having to hear about it anymore.

    And hey, sometimes experiencing social consequences does put people on a path to thinking differently. If you are someone that Laura likes and respect, it may mean something to her that you don’t agree and you’re not willing to tolerate her viewpoint. Or not! Either way, not hearing about it makes your life better. And in all likelihood, she’ll be fired soon anyway.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘I think you’re wrong and I don’t want to hear you talk about this anymore.’

      This has become my standard response to people who complain about ‘unrealistic’ or ‘illegal’ employer vaccination mandates. They are usually surprised that I not only don’t egg them on, but I tell them I want them to stop bringing it up with me. I think people get used to their family or like-minded friends agreeing with them and they’re not sure how to handle a polite shut-down. Whatever the reason, it works.

    2. GlitsyGus*

      100% agree. I think this is also the best way to preserve your working relationship with Laura. It’s very simple and to the point, and doesn’t need to be any kind of insult if you deliver it neutrally. You’re just saying, “I’m not going to talk about this anymore. Let’s move on.”

      You may want to follow up with, “So what did you think about that financial report from Sansa earlier today?” Or something like that, just to kind of show that you’re moving on and not holding a grudge of some kind, but that’s up to you.

    3. Anon Supervisor*

      Yeah, I think OP is overly concerned with hurting her coworker’s feelings or making her uncomfortable while her coworker doesn’t give a flying fig about OP’s feelings or comfort.

  5. bunniferous*

    I feel work is probably not the place to talk about personal vaccination stance period. As Alison states this has become incredibly politicized. I avoid these discussions as much as possible in work situations.

    1. too many too soon*

      A coworker knowingly endangering my health and my family’s health is not about politics. It’s about a person willing to harm others, like any common criminal. That’s a public safety issue, no matter what political flavor the bioweapon chooses to engage in.

      1. bunniferous*

        If it were not already proven that breakthru infections exist and that vaccinated people can still transmit the virus I would agree with you. If someone is refusing to mask and social distance that is another kettle of fish entirely. But I am blessed that I can continue to work from home and only have to deal with the occasional in-person meeting. It’s not worth it to me to discuss. I’ve had it up to my eyeballs with antimaskers who want to give ME a hard time about my mask so at this point I just do not want to talk about it at ALL.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          Breakthrough infections exist. But they are substantially rarer than infections among the unvaccinated. They would be even more rare if everybody got vaccinated. The fact that it isn’t 100% doesn’t mean that vaccination doesn’t prevent disease from spreading.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            It’s also kind of fuzzy what a “breakthrough infection” really is. You can test positive from a nasal swab even if the virus is prevented from spreading beyond your nose and/or making you sick by the vaccine. But that’s not what people picture when they hear breakthrough- they think “got sick anyway”.

            Of course, even those who do actually get sick anyway get much milder cases. But still. It’s a somewhat undefined term.

          2. Aggretsuko*

            It’s not that rare to get a breakthrough infection any more. My Covid scare was from someone getting a breakthrough. I read statistically that everybody now probably knows someone who’s gotten a breakthrough infection. Unfortunately it’s not rare any more, it’s gotten…fairly common.

        2. Colette*

          That’s like saying that someone who brings something to a potluck that contains listeria they had no way of knowing about is the same as someone who brings in the potato salad they kept in their car all week. There’s a difference between someone who does everything under their power to keep others safe and someone who just doesn’t bother.

      2. anonymous73*

        It may not BE about politics, but it’s certainly been MADE to be a political issue. And banging your head against the wall would probably be less painful than trying to convince a co-worker to change their anti-vaccine mind.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          That’s probably true. But doesn’t mean OP has to listen to her BS. Or offer any sort of vague sympathy out of a misguided attempt to smooth waters. There is a time and a place for “I only owe you discussions about work so that’s all we’re going to talk about. And please do it from over there”.

          1. anonymous73*

            I never said she did. I said it’s pointless to convince her to get a vaccine. She 100% needs to shut down the whining.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              I don’t think you are disagreeing; red and blue are more tribal than truly political.

        2. Yipsie*

          I just think I bristle at the implication in that top comment that vaccinated people need to be quiet about their status as well. Pro vaccine people honestly should be at least kind of talking about it, so that the other reasonable people around them know they are likely being safe in general.

          1. anonymous73*

            Yeah I don’t agree with not talking about it at all. But if you have someone who won’t stop talking about not getting a vaccine, and whining about being forced to and “Muh freedoms”, then it’s pretty clear that casually talking about being vaccinated is not going to make a difference.

      3. Lara's Not Crazy (Shes a Person)*

        She’s not endangering your health though. If you have the vaccine you’re fine. You can still get Covid anyways with the vaccine but you are just less likely to die from it. She’s endangering her own health and then your attacking her for it. It’s rude and not inclusive.

        You smoke? “Oh wow get this person out of here now for endangering my health!”

        Do you drive recklessly. “Get out of my society!”

        It can go both ways and this way of thinking is extreme and will be looked down upon decades from now. You don’t treat people like second class citizens when they disagree with you. Lara’s not a criminal, she’s an individual who has the right to chose. If she were a criminal the govt would have put her in jail by now but they didn’t. Leave this woman alone.

        1. miss chevious*

          I suspect LW would leave Lara alone if Lara would stop with her own personal pity party as a result of the consequences of her own choices.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          She is endangering me though. The scientists have never said this is a 100% immunity with no transmission. They have said from Day 1 that it will take a high% vaccination rate to slow the transmission.
          She is also endangering my loved ones who are transplant recipients, cancer survivors, or on immuno-suppressants for rheumatoid arthritis. She is endangering the children in my family under 12.
          If she wants to be left alone, she shouldn’t bring the subject up.
          And if I were LW, I’d be asking my boss why we are training someone who isn’t planning to be vaccinated by deadline.

          1. Aggretsuko*

            Unfortunately, at this point “my body, my choice” isn’t something we can respect any more with regards to Covid. It can’t be a “private” decision. Everyone who decides to not get vaccinated is deciding to put literally everyone else’s health at risk, and yes, we take that personally.

          2. Chris too*

            Yes, this is bizarre! She’s going to be fired in a couple of months, assuming she doesn’t kill herself first.

          3. L'étrangere*

            She’s indeed endangering others. By being a risk to herself, she’s endangering the whole community. Antivaxxers often bleat about herd immunity, but it can’t happen because they are not vaccinated. Because delta is so much more contagious, vaccinated people still have about 20% chance to catch it if they’re exposed. The vaccinated are highly unlikely to end up in the hospital, but we are also more likely to be asymptomatic and so to unwittingly contaminate the vulnerable around us. That is truly reprehensible..

        3. NotCreativewithNames*

          There are laws against driving recklessly and rules/laws against smoking in public spaces where it might endanger the health of others, right?

          1. Midwestern Scientist*

            ^THIS. We have laws that penalize most other forms of endangering other people. For the above examples, smoking is prohibited in pretty much any public building (and even in my very red state, most outside public areas as well). Reckless driving is also punishable by fine/loss of license/jail time.

              1. Panhandlerann*

                You kick people who drive drunk out of the group of people who can have driver’s licenses, and if they do injure someone, you kick them out of free society and into jail.

              2. Flower*

                Drunk drivers can end up imprisoned. You don’t get more “removed from society” than that.

                Also, nobody ever said antivaxxers need to be removed from society entirely. But there are reasonable consequences that can be applied to keep everyone safe, ESPECIALLY during an ongoing global pandemic. It’s a bonus that those consequences also work to increase vaccination rates. (Please note: I work in SciComm. I have ongoing projects centered on how to combat vaccine hesitancy.)

              3. Midwestern Scientist*

                See the other replies, but yes, you remove people from certain situations. AKA Lara cannot work at this job. She is welcome to find another

              4. missmesmer*

                What are you talking about? We don’t let people smoke inside in most circumstances even if they have very strong beliefs about what they should be allowed to do with their bodies. We don’t let people drive anymore if they drive recklessly. In the same manner, we don’t let people into establishments where they might pass on a deadly disease to others.

              5. Picard*

                Yes, yes I do. If I know you’re an anti-vaxxer, I sure as hell dont want to be around you and yes frankly I dont think you belong in polite society. I’m DONE being empathetic. I know too many people who have long haul symptoms, who have DIED of this. You don’t want to vax? Fine. Go live in your little world, don’t encroach on mine. I will absolutely shun you to the best of my ability.

                (obviously not talking about people who have legit medical reasons for not vaxxing)

        4. Erica*

          Well that would be fine if *Lara* would mind her own business. But she’s the one constantly bringing it up!

        5. KittyCardigans*

          Frankly, I would love to tell people who drive recklessly to get out of my society.

          Lara *is* endangering others, and I don’t see why OP needs to make her feel included. Lara’s a person, sure, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve judgment.

        6. NerdyLibraryClerk*

          … Wait, do you also not think that smoking or reckless driving endanger other people? Interesting world you’ve got going on there.

        7. pancakes*

          There’s no indication that the letter writer is “attacking” Lara. There’s also no one telling Lara – or able to force her! – to get out of society. Telling her that she can’t come to this particular workplace isn’t telling her to get out of society.

        8. Mephyle*

          The point is that OP would like Lara to leave her alone. OP isn’t asking about how to convince Lara to get vaccinated, she’s asking how to get Lara to stop whining in her presence.

          1. Chris too*

            “Stop whining in my presence. If you decide not to get the vaccine these are the consequences.”

          2. Nancy*

            “Please stop talking about this at work.”

            The end. That’s all she needs to say. If it becomes a requirement for her job, HR and occupational health will deal with it.

        9. American Job Venter*

          This is a really clear and splendidly cynical example of how malefactors take the language of inclusivity and misuse it to defend the indefensible. I would be impressed if I weren’t revolted.

        10. Sail On, Sailor*

          100% disagree. Lara is still capable of endangering my health, although I’m fully vaccinated. And by extension, the health of my husband who is also fully vaccinated, but has underlying medical issues.

          I too am out of patience with people like this.

        11. Tali*

          I love the idea that it’s not “inclusive” to exclude someone for behavior that does in fact endanger society. I bet a breakthrough infection is more likely if a non-vaccinated person is around you spreading it!

        12. Yipsie*

          I love how you use two examples that the majority of people actually DO support. You can’t smoke in public areas anymore for precisely that reason. And if you drive recklessly, you don’t get to drive anymore and sometimes literally Get kicked out of society for a bit (through going to jail).

        13. allathian*

          I’m refusing to have anything to do with people who are anti-vaxxers. I’m sick and tired of hearing that nonsense. Lara has the right to her convictions, but she has to live with the consequences, including being out of a job with an employer that mandates vaccines, and also including being restricted to essential work-related talk in the workplace by employees who enthusiastically endorse the policy and don’t want anything to do with her socially.

          One of my mom’s cousins is almost 90 and an anti-vaxxer, but at least she has the guts to stand by her convictions. She’s also signed a DNR, so she won’t be taking up a bed and ventilator in ICU if she gets sick. I can respect that, even if reluctantly.

        14. Worldwalker*

          Anti-vaxxers killed Colin Powell.

          Yes, it *is* about other people. Immunocompromised people exist. Co-workers, their family members, their children who are too young for the vaccine. It’s not just about yourself.

        15. BabyElephantWalk*

          The problem is that in many cases, we have had to stop providing other medically necessary care to treat unvaccinated COVID patients. A US Army veteran died of complications of gallstones, because unvaccinated patients with COVID were taking up all the available ICU beds.

          We have closed down “nonessential” surgeries, often having lasting and irreversible impacts on people’s quality of life. Wards designed to treat other conditions and particular bodily systems are being redirected to COVID care. Pediatric ICUs are taking unvaccinated adult patients, lowering their capacity for pediatric emergencies.

          At this point, that is endangering all sorts of people. Pretending your decision to skip a vaccine only affects you is both short sighted and selfish.

        16. Susana*

          This is not true. Lara is absolutely endangering other people.
          Yes, it is much less likely that you will become ill or die from COVID if you are vaccinated. But it’s not impossible, so Lara’s refusal to get vaccinated endangers others.
          Secondly, the fewer peel vaccinated, the more the virus has an opportunity to mutate. Viruses are living things, and want to stay alive. So they mutate. That’s how we got the far more infectious delta variant. The next mutation might be resistant to vaccine.

          Please stop treating this like Lara is not wearing her seat belt. Lara is driving drunk. She has the right to get dead drunk at home. She does not have the right to get drunk and get behind the wheel of a car.
          If Lara wants to stay unvaccinated, fine. But she doesn’t have the right to interact with others at work.

    2. Contract*

      Some of us don’t have that luxury.

      I’m onboarding a new hire at the moment, and their employment contract specifies that they must be fully vaccinated.

      If they’re not prepared to sign, they won’t get the job.

  6. Atlantic Toast Conference*

    I am also not engaging with my coworkers who are like Lara— I’m not a medical professional, nor am I personally close to them, so I don’t think my opinion would change their mind. (Others might make a different choice, of course.)

    But I’d just point out to OP that your employer has a vaccine mandate deadline coming in just a few months! As of January, this situation will have resolved itself, one way or another, and there will be no cause for further discussion. So if it’s any consolation, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel— hang in there.

    1. Lirael*

      OP says that remote work is an option, so it’s unlikely Lara will get fired, so OP might still have to hear complaints for a while yet

      1. Pterodactylate*

        If Lara doesn’t get fired, then she’ll have nothing to complain about because she got to have her cake and eat it, too! (Though I doubt she’d see it that way, given her lack of applying logic, but maybe!)

      2. Nia*

        If the LWs company is truly dedicated to the vaccine they should fire her regardless of the fact the job can be done remotely.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My job is 100% remote but if I didn’t get vaccinated I would have been fired. A policy that applies to all employees applies to all employees, full stop.

        1. LKW*

          Same here. Corporate gave the date for the US. If you request an exemption it will be vetted. If you do not have an exemption and you are willing to get vaccinated, they will extend the cutoff for a short time on a case by case basis.

      4. OutofOffice*

        Our company is requiring it for employment whether or not you’re fully remote. The only way to get an exemption is if there’s a legitimate, approved (i.e. by a doctor) medical reason. It’s possible OP’s company will do that, too, so it’s not off-base for Lara to think she may get fired.

        Of course, there’s an easy remedy to avoid getting let go for not having the vaccine and that is…getting the vaccine. I feel for OP here; I get frustrated with this, too!

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, me too. I expect that many companies are going to allow medically exempt employees to remain fully remote, both for their protection and for the protection of other employees. Possibly also those with a religious exemption, while firing those who refuse to get the vaccine just because. Of course, in this particular case, when not getting the vaccine can endanger other people, I do wish that religious convictions carried less weight as an exemption, I must admit.

      5. Atlantic Toast Conference*

        OP did say she thinks it’s unlikely, but that seems to contradict the corporate mandate that “they will expect everyone to come to the office at least one day a week, and you will need to show proof of your vaccine to enter the building.” So, not clear, I guess– but hopefully it’s a moot point soon!

      6. COBOL Dinosaur*

        Our company has federal contracts so we are bound by the federal mandate. For us though they are requiring the vaccine even if you are working from home.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          This was part of the mandate, no remote work exception or testing exception for federal employees or contractors. Its vaxx or be gone. Telework can be part of your “reasonable accommodation” if you get an approved exemption for religion or medical reasons, but not an exemption in itself.

    2. BahahahaBlackSheep*

      Even being a medical professional or scientist doesn’t help in many cases!

      I am a scientist and a science educator and even with my box of tricks I cannot get through to my in laws. I even carefully crafted a “antibodies are like car parts” metaphor to them. No dice!

      MIL cited a social media video about microchips when she was told about me personally vaccinating 500 people with no ill effects….. guess I should have put my snappy metaphor in online video form….

  7. KHB*

    From what I can see, a certain amount of anti-vax sentiment isn’t really about the vaccines themselves – it’s about refusing to be told what to do, as a way of reclaiming some personal power in a situation where they feel powerless.

    Now, that’s clearly not a rational behavior. But the thing about humans is we’re not always rational. And as I understand it, a lot of other self-destructive behaviors have similar psychological roots.

    What I’m saying is, trying to argue with Lara using facts and reason is never going to get you anywhere, because that’s not going to get you anywhere, because that’s not what it’s about for her in the first place. But, do you need to “win” this argument with her? Can you reframe it to yourself as, “I personally don’t care that much whether you get vaccinated or not – as long as you’re not bringing COVID into the office and giving it to me, we’re good”?

    1. JB*

      It’s actually about fear intolerance.

      Most people who refuse to get vaccinated – regardless of what outward reason they give – have a very low tolerance for fear or uncertainty. They’re not able to both experience fear and take action on the thing that’s frightening them. So they react to something very scary (a pandemic) by downplaying it, insisting it’s not real, or attacking the authority of the primary source of information (i.e. doctors), which gives them internal permission to transform the fear into something more tolerable, like anger, or to put the fear onto something they feel they have more control over, like an ‘overreacting government’ that they are clearly ‘too smart to be tricked by’.

      It’s not a coincidence that there’s such a big overlap between COVID deniers and climate change deniers, and that both groups have a large overlap with conservatives, who have been found to be more fear-adverse and uncertainty-adverse than the general population.

      1. Sopranohannah*

        I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about how a phobia of needles has been keeping a large group of people from being vaccinated. The University of Ottawa is even holding free group therapy sessions to combat it. Other than some type of therapy, how do you combat this?

        1. Nea*

          Oh! I know this one!

          Phone games.

          No, I’m serious. I haaaaaaate needles with the fire of 1000 suns and tend to get light-headed when I even think about being jabbed. So whenever I get a shot – this vax and the flu one (get your flu shot too, folks!) I tell the nurse right up front that I hate needles, so please give me a minute to focus on my phone.

          Three moves into Bejeweled and I’ll only dimly notice if they amputate my arm. The second COVID vax she actually had to wave a hand in front of my face and say “Go now.”

          1. irene adler*

            Yes-distractions work! I tell them, I have to look away for the whole thing. And they need to keep me talking throughout.

            I’ve also noticed that the jab is a lot less painful than jabs in years past.
            I asked the nurse about this. Several improvements have been made to enhance shot-getter comfort:
            – thinner needle
            -technique (they gently squeeze the injection site to plump it up a bit)
            -the solution injected is less viscous.

            I hated the shot pain but now it’s barely noticeable. Had two COVIDs and one flu shot. No pain at all. I had to ask them if they’d finished.

            1. Nea*

              Yes, I noticed that there is almost zero pain now. Getting my flu shot used to feel like I was punched in the arm; this year I barely noticed and I didn’t even have my phone with me.

            2. Tau*

              I was legit worried the doctor had missed my arm with my second COVID shot. To the point whre I checked when I got home to make sure there was blood on the band-aid. I had never had a painless shot before.

              1. Paris Geller*

                Same. I literally did not feel my second vaccine. I was only convinced I was actually poked when I started experiencing some (relatively mild to moderate) side effects.

            3. Tin Cormorant*

              I just got my 5-year-old daughter in for her yearly flu shot. She screamed, she cried, we told her it wouldn’t hurt but she didn’t believe us and it took three of us to hold her still enough despite her flailing that they could do the shot.

              After, I asked her whether it hurt. She said no. I hope to whatever deities exist that she remembers this next month when the Covid vaccine will likely be approved for her age group.

            4. Nina Bee*

              Might also be that the people giving the shot are very well practiced with the amount they’re doing!

            5. ErinWV*

              I also noticed that the COVID vax was practically painless. I am anxious about shots so I actively look away and take deep breaths. I didn’t even feel the first one.

              Also, specific to COVID: I heard so many horror stories about reactions going into it that I was kind of terrified. It felt like walking into a room being told, “You are now submitting to having the flu for the next three days.” I hate being sick–I didn’t want to be sick! If people who are hesitant can hear more stories about people who had almost no reaction, it’s probably a good thing. Here’s mine: didn’t feel the shot. Arm was a tad stiff the first day or so. I windmilled it around every couple hours to keep it loose. I never got a fever, I never got cold or flu symptoms, and I worked a full day the day of the shot and the day after. Second shot was just as easy.

              1. Jules of the River*

                I’ll add my experience to yours: only side effect both times was a mildly sore arm. Also, I got my first shot 4 weeks before I conceived my baby, second one 4 weeks after and she’s currently thriving at 27 weeks, using my bladder as a kickball (for those who have fertility concerns).

              2. DJ Abbott*

                My only side effect with the first one was a sore arm. It was sore enough that I couldn’t raise it for two or three days, but I had no other symptoms.
                With the second one I had no symptoms at all.

          2. Sopranohannah*

            Thanks. I’ve been a Type I diabetic for 30+ years, so trying to get in the headspace of someone with a fear of needles is hard for me. I will certainly pass those along.

          3. UKDancer*

            Definitely distractions. I get most of my vaccinations from my pharmacist and he knows I have needle issues so I tell him to distract me and he tells me about his grandchildren in Mumbai and their latest achievements. I managed to get all my travel vaccines pre-Covid and my flu jab that way.

            When I had my Covid vaccines I had to go to the vaccination centre. I told the nurses doing the vaccine both times that I had real issues with needles and needed them to talk to me. They were both really nice about it. I usually reward myself with something nice afterwards. When I got the Covid vaccine I went to the cafe opposite the vaccination centre and got a large cinnamon danish and a latte and felt very pleased with myself.

            I will never like needles but there are many things in life I don’t like but have to do them anyway. This is one of them. I do it because it’s the right thing to do.

            1. Nea*

              And here I was recently lamenting that adults didn’t get lollipops after for good behavior. Next time I’ll get myself a danish and a latte, what a good idea!

          4. Marillenbaum*

            My gynecologist encourages this for IUD insertion! She told me “look, this sucks and it’s worse if you’re anxious, so just get out your favorite phone game”.

          5. SpaceySteph*

            I say this every year when I get the flu shot that thinking of the thing is way worse than doing the thing. I barely feel the needle at the time of the shot (and the covid vaccine needle is particularly tiny) but standing in line to get my flu shot I’m a basket case every damn year.

        2. Chairman of the Bored*

          I have a friend who wanted to get vaccinated because he’s responsible adult, but als has a serious needle phobia.

          His solution was to get fairly drunk before his vaccine appointment and then have his spouse drive him there.

          They were afraid that he might be refused the vaccine because he was visibly intoxicated, but when spouse explained the situation to the paramedic he just said “Great idea!’ and gave friend the jab.

          Not a answer for everybody, but it worked for him.

          1. mskyle*

            I’ve heard of primary care doctors offering their patients a one-time scrip for a small does of lorazepam (aka Ativan) to take before vaccinations – sounds like your friend came up with a DIY version!

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              I had a miserable needle phobia that I only overcame after having a medical condition that required giving myself regular injections (and only consented to that because I was pregnant and it also affected the baby if untreated). My doctor, bless her, used to give me a one-time scrip for a mild sedative when I had to have bloodwork done, under the condition that I not drive myself to/from the appointment.

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          I have a fear of needles, but I am more afraid of getting a dangerous illness or passing it on to others. So, I get all my vaccinations. If you tell the nurse/phlebotomist/person with scary needle about your fear, they will generally do what they can to help. (For me, not seeing the needle & chatting about other stuff helps.)

          Also, based on recent experience, the shingles vaccine knocks you for way more of a loop than the COVID vaccine. YMMV

          1. Oxford Comma*

            This was me. They had two people to a table and the one woman made a point of chatting with me to relax me and they also suggested I keep my eyes closed. That helped a lot.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              This was me. They had two people to a table and the one woman made a point of chatting with me to relax me and they also suggested I keep my eyes closed. That helped a lot.

              I don’t do well with needles and would likely be diagnosed with that phobia. I’m another person who has combated that mostly successfully with looking in the opposite direction of the injection, then closing my eyes.

              1. Worldwalker*

                I’m weird: I *have* to watch. If I can’t see what’s going on, my brain fills in something far scarier, even just something vague and incoherent. If I watch, I can keep the screaming panicking part of my brain under control.

          2. UKDancer*

            Definitely. Both times I went for the Covid vaccine the staff were lovely. I think they’ve been trained to be really sympathetic and understanding and make it the best experience possible. I still hate needles and can’t watch but the fact they take me seriously and are nice about my issues makes it a lot easier for me.

            1. banoffee pie*

              I found that, far from thinking you’re a wuss for not watching the jab, the nurse/vaccine-giver didn’t really expect you to watch. It seemed to me, looking round the big sport hall where I got mine, that most people didn’t watch. I got mine in the UK too. They were so gentle and nice about it. I don’t mind vaccines but obvs don’t really like them (who does) and this was the easiest I ever got.

        4. M*

          Ok, but as someone who typically faints when getting shots or blood draws (and can’t even watch scenes in movies or tv that have needles), I got my vaccine as soon as it was available to my population, and as soon as I could get an appointment. I’ve had a phobia of needles since I was a kid, and to be honest if I don’t need a shot I typically don’t get it. I had a friend go with me, and she held my hand/held me in the chair for my shot. It felt ridiculous for a grown woman to need a buddy to hold my hand, and I cried, but I was able to overcome my fear because I know that it’s not about me. I’m in an age range unlikely to get seriously sick (statistically speaking), and I could have shrugged it off and said I’ll just mask until it’s over. But since I work with elderly people and my partner works with kids, it was irresponsible and selfish to do that, so I had to do it.

          1. All-mad-here*

            My dad has a pretty severe needle phobia (he faints sometimes too). I found this out as a kid when we were getting shots at the travel clinic before a trip to Zimbabwe. The nurse offered me a lollipop, which of course I said yes to, and I’ll never forget the sight of my father, who I still thought of the biggest bravest person in the world, white as a sheet, sheepishly asking if he could have a lollipop too.

            He’s fully vaccinated against Covid, and at my request since he’s coming to stay after my first kid is born later this fall, also got his flu shot and dtap booster this year. I’m grateful to him and grateful to you.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              I always say that those of us with a fear of needles are incredibly brave, because we have to face our fears regularly at the doctor or dentist.

        5. Temperance*

          I used to have a huge needle fear. I now ask to look away and blow bubbles with my mouth, which is something I read YEARS ago and totally is a good distraction.

        6. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I know someone who hates needles and hospitals and doctors. She specifically kept reminding herself that getting hospitalized with Covid 19 would be much more invasive than 2 needle sticks.

        7. Tali*

          I also have a strong phobia of needles, to the point where I admit I avoided vaccines in the past because of it. For me, it helped to reframe this vaccine as a decision I was making to protect my family (as opposed to just myself, doing it for loved ones was a powerful motivator), and to remember that being sick from covid would certainly bring more needles (IVs, medications, and other invasive procedures) so the vaccine was the lesser of two evils.

          On the days of the shots, I brought a loved one who helped me advocate for myself, got a private room (some places just do it in a big room or hallway and privacy helped me feel better), tried my best to distract myself, and in the end just bawled/hyperventilated my way through it and it was over. It was shorter and less painful than past experiences with tetanus shots, IVs, and the dentist.

        8. allathian*

          There’s a Finnish covid vaccine in development and it’s a nasal spray. It’s currently in phase 2 testing, and I hope that by next spring/summer they’ll be able to get EMA approval for it, and later FDA approval as well.

        9. Jessica Ganschen*

          Some people with phobias or aversions also find it helpful to use this thing called a ShotBlocker, which is a sort of chunky “U” shaped piece of plastic with a bunch of pointy bits on the underside. You press it against the skin and then give the injection in the middle of the U, and because your brain is already being bombarded with so many pointy signals so close together, the needle doesn’t even register.

        10. Domino*

          I read that CAMH ran a temporary vaccine clinic specifically for people with needle phobia and/or medical anxiety in Toronto. Long appointment slots, medical paraphernalia was kept out of patients’ sight, I think nurses might have been dressed more “normally” than usual, possibly calming music and nice lighting, etc.

      2. Tuesday*

        This is very interesting. You’re giving me a lot to think about using this framework. I’ve been trying to figure out my sister. My politically liberal, climate-change believing sister who is now anti-vax, despite spending days in the hospital with covid. I never saw that coming. Her initial approach, like you said, was to downplay it (“I think I already had it last December” or “A healthy immune system will withstand it, and natural immunity is better than a vaccine”). She worked up all kinds of fear over the long-term effects of the vaccine, instead of fearing the long-term (or short-term) effects of covid.

        Then when she came out of the hospital, she was terrified of getting it again, but just doubled down on her anti-vax views. She’s doing things like rarely leaving the house (fortunately) and disinfecting her clothing when she does (pointless). She’s using those things to assuage her fear instead of doing the sensible thing and getting the freaking vaccine. I think I’m starting to understand what’s going on, but it’s still beyond infuriating.

        1. Boof*

          Arg!!! “natural immunity”. Vaccines aren’t “Synthetic immunity”, they are real immunity just without getting horribly sick!!! (maybe antibody treatments = “passive immunity”, + antivirals, and antibiotics are the closest thing to that). (I know, ranting to the choir, I’ve just started to loathe that phrase, like calling food “organic” – hey it’s all carbon based – but worse)
          Supposedly if you break your bones they heal stronger, but does anyone advocate for just… breaking a bunch of bones for “natural bone strength”???

          1. 1LFTW*

            Love the broken bones analogy, I might borrow that!

            Your comment reminds me of the time I had to talk a hippie grad school acquaintance down after she read something about hydrocarbons. Her rant was along the lines of “those EVIL SCIENTISTS with their MATERIALIST WORLDVIEW and how DARE they APPROPRIATE the word ORGANIC to describe their CHEMISTRY” and I was like “let me explain some definitions to you…”

            To her credit, she accepted my explanation, and it was at that point when I realized what an incredible privilege I enjoy because – just by chance, really – I had some very excellent high school science teachers.

        2. Domino*

          Is your sister aware that every single molecule in the vaccine will be completely out of her system within two weeks of getting it?

          Like, even if you’re very concerned about the ingredients, you only have to live with said ingredients for two weeks, max. After that, you’re left with a strengthened immune system and literally nothing else.

      3. Bee Eye Ill*

        I know quite a few anti-vax people and they are all outspoken evangelicals. I wish I know who or what was getting to them.

        1. Nea*

          Fox News and really hard-right conservative religious authorities. The really hardline religious authorities have been anti-vax since the Andrew Wakefield days; being against the Covid vax is only a small step away from being anti-MMR.

          Also, they’re authorities. If you’re going to homeschool your kids because Farris told you to and grind wheat for bread every day like Gothard told you to and spank your kids like Pearl told you to and all of those people are also telling you to listen to them and Fox news instead of anyone else or you’ll literally spend eternity in hell, you’ve long since been primed to reject any other message.

          1. Pterodactylate*

            And these Fox News hosts are spreading this fear and misinformation while many of them are vaccinated against COVID! (The conservative ~thought leader~ mindset: do as I say, not as I do, because I make way more money when you do what I say).

          2. Koa*

            I hardly think poking at one dude if the political aisle is appropriate here and I’m disappointed Alison allowed it. I’m a conservative but clearly am in the minority here and if I were to come in here bashing all Democrats and calling them all sheep would that be ok?? I know several Democrats who remain unvaccinated yet I, a conservative Republican, am vaccinated.

            1. OAM*

              This comment is straight out of the #NotAllMen playbook. No, not all men are rapists but, statistically speaking, men are waaaaaay overrepresented in the population of rapists, versus women.

              Conservatives, and their party of choice, are waaaaaay overrepresented in the population of anti-COVID-vaxxers as well as the population of people dying from or hospitalized with COVID.

              From a July 2021 article on US News: “The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 75% of Democrats have already been vaccinated; just 41% of Republicans said the same. Blue states are more likely to have tighter mask or vaccines rules; colleges that require vaccination, for example, are more likely to be located in states President Joe Biden won last November, KFF reports.”

            2. Former Hominid*

              I mean- only one side politicized the pandemic to the point where early precautions that could have saved thousands of lives weren’t taken and now we have half a million plus dead from covid in this country. Only one side used the pandemic and vaccines as an excuse to attempt a coup on Jan 6th. Only one side has a captive news station that is still presenting anti-vax propaganda as fact at this late date. This is just not a both sides situation, and pointing that obvious and factual disparity is not “bashing”. I’m glad you got vaccinated.

              1. Boof*

                But this perpetuates it. Koa, though, consider reporting to allison directly if you think this needs to be reigned in rather than presuming allison is seeing all these comments in real time and purposefully allowing them.

            3. Chairman of the Bored*

              Surely, there must be “very fine people on both sides”.

              (FYI, I’m being sarcastic.)

            4. fhqwhgads*

              Alison has said about 8000 times she does not read every comment. If you haven’t reported the post as breaking site rules (and waited a while to see what happens), then you have no reason to believe she “allowed it” rather than simply is unaware of the comment being there.

            5. marvin the paranoid android*

              The comment isn’t saying anything about conservatives as a broad group, just about hardline right-wing religious and media personalities and the harm they’re capable of perpetuating. It’s probably uncomfortable to hear about as a conservative, but if you really don’t stand behind the messages these figures are propagating, you’re likely in a good position to open a conversation about them with other conservatives who may feel similarly.

            6. RagingADHD*

              Listen, back when conservative actually meant something about fiscal policy and division/limitation of governmental power, I considered myself conservative. Still do, in that sense.

              But the vile, dangerous, anti-intellectual nonsense these right-wing influencers are spouting has no more to do with actual conservative principles of governance than my big toe.

            7. BabyElephantWalk*

              Statistically speaking, unvaccinated people are more likely to be right wing. Are we supposed to avoid actual provable facts because feelings might get hurt? No one is saying that all evangelicals, all right wing people etc are causing a problem. But to be asked to avoid discussing actual provable facts because people feel targeted or hurt deliberately skews the discussion towards misinformation.

        2. RagingADHD*

          I know both evangelical antivaxxers (some of whom are ok with “normal” vaxes but not covid) as well as liberal, crunchy-granola antivaxxers.

          At least, I used to know crunchy granola ones who were anti-ordinary vax –I’m not actually sure if they are anti-covid vax because I had to mute their nonsense during the last local measles outbreak.

          Antivax makes strange bedfellows.

          1. BabyElephantWalk*

            They’re still antivaxxers and just as awful about it, at least in my experience. I’ve had to mute a lot of them recently because they are on about feeling persecuted about the vaccine.

        3. BabyElephantWalk*

          Everyone I know who is anti-vax is either evangelical or new age. Most of them being led to the antivax views by their religious leadership or personal spiritual gurus.

      4. NerdyLibraryClerk*

        That’s interesting. I wouldn’t have said I was good with fear (I have several phobias and generalized anxiety disorder), but taking action helps me. The pandemic felt a lot more overwhelming before the vaccines were available. It must be horrible to be terrified and to have taking action *not* help. D:

        (Though I still struggle to maintain my sympathy, since their inability to take action is harming other people.)

      5. Sleet Feet*

        I’ve actually heard it’s more about personal responsibility tolerance for vaccines in particular, and it tends to go heavily on hand with religion.

        If Timmy catches Measles and dies, that was an act of god. I have no personal responsibility for that.

        If I get Timmy vaccinated, and My has an adverse reaction and dies, I killed Timmy.

        They can reject their personal responsibility for their unvaccinated Timmy spreading deadly diseases to children who can’t get the vaccine because it’s “nature” “god’s will” etc.

    2. Lab Boss*

      +1. Just because Lara’s stance isn’t rational, doesn’t mean it’s not understandable. But if Lara’s reasons are emotional you’re facing an uphill battle to change her mind- as they say, “you can’t logic someone out of a position they didn’t logic themselves into.”

    3. Worldwalker*

      We’re told what to do all the time.

      Arrive at work at this time.
      Wear business casual clothing.
      Don’t come in drunk.
      Work on that project.
      Don’t kill the guy at the next desk.

  8. KD*

    Don’t engage. Just keep your physical (and mental) distance. I have a very smart wonderful friend who isn’t vaccinated. I want to whack her up side the head, instead I’m just gonna watch as she has to decline going to large events, not take certain jobs and soon not be able to get on a plane. Choices have consequences.

    1. hellion*

      As someone who tried and massively failed to get my closest friend to vaccinate (after reading a bunch of resources on how to do so compassionately) I would also say it’s really not worth it to engage as well.

    2. Anon Supervisor*

      Yup, some people just have to learn the hard way…I also remind people that scream about not having a choice when it comes to vaccine mandates that they DO have a choice, it’s just that they don’t like either option.

  9. AdAgencyChick*

    OP, take care of yourself. That includes going to your manager and asking for a plan B on Lara taking over parts of your job. If you train her only to get those duties back when she gets fired, that’s not fair to you at all.

    1. L'étrangere*

      Absolutely right – there’s a real work problem here. And also an opportunity to let management know now that they have a problem coming up. Is this person lying her way into the office right now? Any certificate she produces in the future needs to be carefully scrutinized for signs of frauds, in fact HR should probably plan to verify it directly with the clinic issuing it

  10. Frankie Bergstein*

    I’d be tempted to take a less direct approach and just end the conversation. For example, if it were in the middle of a meeting, I’d say, “this agenda is packed – and I really need to get your thoughts on this TPS reports process.” Or, I’d say something like, “Okay – sorry to interrupt – I need to finish processing payroll so I’m going to go do that now. Talk to you later!”

    1. Shira*

      Yes, same. Do not engage at all. If she doesn’t get a response she will probably stop bringing it up with you. Accept that you will not change her mind, and as long as she’s not in the office, let the chips fall where they may.

  11. Mental Lentil*

    “That’s too bad, Lara. I really enjoyed working with you.” Then Cheshire-cat grin, turn, and walk away.

    1. L'étrangere*

      I would also point out point blank that it’s futile to train her on anything new since she won’t be around to use it. And discuss that directly, and privately, with the person who decided on this shift in responsibilities

  12. Pants*

    Lara’s decision is clearly terrible judgment — but she’s also being preyed upon by political forces that are using mass delusion for their own gains.

    I realise I’m going to come off like an asshole and I’m fine with that. If Lara truly believes the misinformation being peddled at her by the Qmers, then yes I do think there’s cause to doubt her ability to do her job. Cognitive dissonance is not a highly sought after skill.

    1. too many too soon*

      I feel that way about all the first reponders currently being fire over vaxholery. How in the world can they be trusted to act in the public’s best interests when they are actively helping further a pandemic?? How can they be unbiased in treating people?

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I read something that asserted that being antivax should be disqualifying as a medical professional because you’re discounting science and medical best practices (it was worded more eloquently than that) and I absolutely agree.

    2. L'étrangere*

      Happy to be counted as another asshole here. Anyone so disconnected from reality and any form of logical reasoning cannot be performing their job satisfactorily

    3. Mental Lentil*

      As I saw on Twitter, “If a cook said they weren’t going to wash their hands because they trust their immune system or they wouldn’t store food in the coolers because they haven’t seen anything about the effectiveness of coolers in preventing spoilage, we’d fire them. No questions asked. Straight to fired.”


      1. twocents*

        And keeping with the metaphor: even if fridges became highly political, if your politics meant that you’d risk rotten meat, I’d still think you were an idiot.

        You may be able to hang drywall (or whatever) and technically do your job functions, but clearly, your default state is “moron.”

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      The ability to function despite cognitive dissonance does seem to be a highly valued job skill.

      Think of how many workplaces would fall apart if the employees couldn’t navigate the internal contradictions they encounter every hour of every day.

    5. marvin the paranoid android*

      Not to let people like Laura off the hook, but I honestly don’t think critical thinking or logic factors into this to the degree that we would like to believe. With the degree of misinformation that’s easily accessible and often endorsed by prominent political, religious and cultural figures, it is possible to feel like you’re doing your research and reading widely on a topic while being led down the garden path of quackery.

      I certainly don’t have a huge degree of trust in my own ability to make reasoned judgments about epidemiology or virology or vaccine development, or for that matter civil engineering, electricity, agriculture or any of the many technologies I interact with on a daily basis. We have to be able to trust each other to function as a society, but some social institutions have been increasingly taking advantage of and betraying that trust.

      So while I do think anti-vaxxers as a group are lacking in compassion and moral courage, I don’t necessarily think they’re lacking in rationality any more than the rest of us do.

    6. Genny*

      This is really overly simplifying the psychological nature of misinformation and disinformation. They work partially because people can compartmentalize different belief systems and because people tend to be inconsistent in their reasoning and worldviews. It’s also rare that people jump straight into an extreme belief. It’s usually a series of small steps such that they’re never forced to really reconcile core beliefs or actions with the new misinformation/disinformation they’re processing. So yes, someone can be a really, really good accountant and also be duped (or willingly led) into believing misinformation.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, that’s true. But I highly doubt that someone can be a really, really good medical professional and also be duped or willingly led into believing misinformation about medical issues. That said, there are plenty of good medical professionals who endorse some non-Western medical techniques, such as acupuncture, which has been shown to work on both horses and dogs, so it’s doubtful it’s just based on the placebo effect. I draw the line at homeopathy, though, a medical professional who endorses that loses all credibility in my eyes.

        I do believe a good medical professional could be duped into believing misinformation about, say, climate change, though.

  13. brostasw*

    It’s ironic that many anti-vaxers would argue they’re asserting their right not to be vaccinated but are angry when businesses asert their right to only accept vaccinated employees or customers.

    It cuts both ways.

    1. LolaBugg*

      Yes, this. Sure, you have the right to refuse vaccination if that’s what you choose, but you also must accept the consequences that come with that decision. You can’t have it both ways.

      1. Elle Woods*

        Exactly. It always baffles me when people say things like “actions have consequences” then complain when their action–or, in this case, inaction–has consequences.

    2. LizzE*

      These are the same people who were rooting for businesses to have the right to deny services to LGBTQ+ customers. So yes, cuts both ways.

      1. Nea*

        That’s because folks like that think that they are always in the in-group that the law protects but does not constrain, while Those People (anyone who isn’t just like them) are the out-group that the law constrains but does not protect.

        Folks like that can’t wrap their heads around the idea that they are the ones being constrained.

      2. Boof*

        I get what you’re saying but these are kind of strawmans – it’s not worth building up a group who are hypocrites and then yelling about them, because having seen other people do it, much of the time they’re not actually the same people at all. If it’s an individual you know who actually thinks both these things, by all means have at it, but the conjectural group who must do both these things because there’s some political overlap there, ehhh, kinda a strawman.

  14. animaniactoo*

    Honestly, I would simply turn it back on her when she whines about getting fired because she won’t get vaccinated.

    “Of course, that’s your choice. Everyone has to do what they think is best for themselves. So… if that’s your choice, it’s your choice.”

    as matter of factly as I can with zero sympathy indicated.

    1. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

      While thinking internally “everyone SHOULD do what experts think is best for society as a whole…”? Cause I certainly would be.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      This. “If that’s the choice that you’re willing to make, then OK.” Or “Yes, you’ve said that before. Can we get back to work/So back to the topic at hand/etc.”

      I am 100% WFH for the near future (for a hospital) and just had to send in my proof of influenza vaccination, even though I am 100% WFH. Had to do it last year, too. Vaccinations are vital public health tools. I have absolutely zero sympathy at this point. My colleagues have been through hell, and I have ‘survivor’s guilt’ for not being there with them, having given up patient work a few years ago.

      (Our COVID admissions were nearly at zero this summer then spiked up into several dozen as of a month ago, and is slowly coming back down again.)

      1. ThisIsTheHill*

        I just got hired on as an FTE from a contract position at a health insurance company that is affiliated with a health system. 100% remote. At onboarding on Friday, I was given a flu shot & the health system confirmed my COVID shots (which I happily received last spring& will get boosted this weekend) in the state’s vax database.

        Right there with you on the zero sympathy train. Our census numbers – posted daily on our intranet homepage – have been in the red zone every day since I started in July & likely the entirety of March 2020-21.

      2. tangerineRose*

        About the survivors’ guilt – by working from home you’re helping with safety for your co-workers – they have 1 less person who might catch something and accidentally spread it.

    3. miss chevious*

      Yes, this is how I treated it with an anti-vax friend who I had to uninvite from a gathering. I told her that I understood, and I supported her right to make a choice, but I couldn’t have people at the gathering who were unvaccinated, so unfortunately she couldn’t attend. She was upset for a minute, but got over it. I imagine if you shut Lara down, there will be some grumbling, but she’ll stop looking to you for a sympathetic ear.

    4. Dark Macadamia*

      This! “That’s your choice.” “Hm, I wonder what you’ll do about that.” “Sounds tough.” “Huh.” “Wow.” Think of the blandly pleasant things you would say to a child throwing a tantrum and run with that, lol.

  15. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I, too, am incredibly fed up with people refusing the vaccine (and found out this past weekend that some of my relatives are in that camp).

    That said, you’re not likely to change Lara’s mind. If you really want to try though, I’d suggest going to reddit and searching for the sub “Herman Cain Award”. Send her links to some of those stories. It’s equal parts fascinating and horrifying to scroll through the screencaps of these folks’ public posts going from virulent anti-mask, anti-vaccine sentiments to “I’m in the hospital with Covid” to their relatives begging for prayers to the announcement that they’ve succumbed to the disease. Dozens of them daily.

    1. Loulou*

      I hate this suggestion! The whole “Herman Cain award” thing is cruel and gross, and the idea that sharing it would work to convince a vaccine hesitant coworker is insane. Insane!!

      I agree with others who have said OP should try to politely but firmly establish boundaries and cut off this topic of conversation. But what she should NOT do is share content mocking people who have died of covid…can’t believe that needs saying!

      1. Oxford Comma*

        I lurk in that sub and I think this is a mischaracterization. So many of the people who post there are talking about parents, children, siblings, loved ones who have refused to get the shot and who have been so sick and/or died. Healthcare workers talk about what it’s been like working in Covid wards. And there are people who have gotten the shot after spending some time on the sub.

        That said, I think OP, you just tell Lara “it’s been great working with you,” and you move on.

      2. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

        Maybe the idea is insane, but there are plenty of posts on that sub from people who decided to get vaccinated after spending time on it.
        And before you call the folks on that sub cruel and gross, you might try spending a minute there. What they (we) are is frustrated and sad.

      3. StellaBella*

        as someone who has read it for months, this is not accurate at all. people who violate rule 2 and are cruel have comments removed. trolls are banned. it is not cruel. it is tragic.

      4. RagingADHD*

        Not at all.

        The purpose of that sub is not mockery or cruelty, but to vividly demonstrate the real-world consequences of misinformation.

        All identifying information is removed unless the person is a public figure, and the only posts permitted are when the person was actively spreading lies (and sometimes threats and hate speech) to deceive or discourage others from getting vaccinated.

        There is schadenfreude in the comments, but the point is to show the outcome and impact on others.

        People frequently share that they have “disqualified themselves” by getting their vax, and they are heartily congratulated and celebrated.

        Not everyone can tolerate the harsh tone and gallows humor, but it is born out of deep frustration at self-destructive behavior and needless suffering. Real callousness would produce indifference.

      5. fhqwhgads*

        It’s showing people a super long, true, accurate list of people who said “I won’t get vaccinated. I’ll be fine” then got sick and died of the thing they refused to get vaccinated for. Real people, not just numbers in a dashboard. It humanizes the very real situation that is otherwise easier for them to ignore, or brush off as “only the elderly, only the already sick”. It throws in their face the “well it won’t happen to ME” with a flood of counterexamples. It’s not mocking the dead. It’s illustrating cause and effect. You may find it to still be cruel and/or gross, but I don’t understand how it could be “insane”. It sounds extremely logical to me.

      6. marybeans*

        I respectfully disagree, Loulou. Yes, there are some people who lean a bit too heavily on the gallows humor, but it’s also convinced some anti-vaxxers to get their shot.

    2. Windchime*

      It’s awful, isn’t it? I’m hooked on that sub. At first I was just kind of fascinated, but now it makes me so sad to see how many people are being mislead on this topic — and paying for it with their lives.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The worst is when you start flipping through the screencaps and you’re like “wait, didn’t I see this one already” and then realize that, no, they are just the exact same memes you’ve already seen in four other posts.

        “I’m part of the control group” is the one that gives me chills.

    3. V. Anon*

      It would definitely not be professional to share that sub. But I would probably be unable to stop myself from asking Lara if she plans to live GoFundMe to GoFundMe when she loses this job.

    4. StellaBella*

      Came here to say this. Send her a link to. various awardees, citing …’if any of the memes these folks shared are similar to your ideas, look how it turned out for them.’

  16. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    My response in conversations like where Lara is whining about getting fired is “I don’t know why you’re expecting me to have any compassion for your situation when you clearly don’t have any compassion for others. If you did, this wouldn’t be an issue because you’d have gotten the shot.”

  17. The Smiling Pug*

    OP, I want to congratulate you for wanting to broach this extremely charged subject with Lara. However, I’m with Alison 100% on this, as I’m just not up for a vaccine discussion at work. However, with family and friends, I’m very noncommittal and have used the “Not up for it/let’s please move on” tactic plenty of times.

  18. Bee Eye Ill*

    My work has taken a hardline approach and issued a vax mandate for everyone. No exceptions, either. At least none yet. We’ve already had a couple of people quit. Seems like a pretty dumb hill to die on.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I’d agree, but if there was ever a time an employee could afford to take a stand like this, it’s now

      1. Loulou*

        What makes you say that? Mandates are only becoming more and more common…the idea that you’ll be able to quit and definitely find a job that will definitely never institute a mandate doesn’t hold water.

        1. Bee Eye Ill*

          Right…or you quit and go someplace else that issues a mandate later on, then what you gonna do?

        2. Hiring Mgr*

          I was referring to the labor shortage that is hitting many places and industries now. Lots of companies are desperate to hire – I’m talking short term here anyway, who knows what will happen with this even just a few months from now?

          1. Kevin Sours*

            The funny is that some places with vaccine mandates have had an easier time hiring. It’s not clear that vaccine mandates are the problem.

          2. Anon Supervisor*

            Yeah, but a lot of the businesses that are desperate for employees in my area are retail, food service, or labor. If that’s what you’re interested in doing, wonderful, but most of the people I know whining about vaccine mandates would probably turn their nose up at working at Kohl’s.

            1. The Price is Wrong Bob*

              In my city, anyone sitting down for dining must show proof of vaccination so the Laras of the world would get their employer fined for not enforcing it. Same for bars, theaters, museums gyms, city workers, most major banks, tech companies, healthcare, daycare, teachers, etc. So while there are a few low wage jobs left here for the unvaccinated, office jobs or higher wage work as an employee and not an independent contractor will be thin on the ground by end of year for new hires, even if some existing employees got some sort of exemption. I think a lot of the Laras have overplayed their hands because more and more employers are saying they won’t hire new people without vaccines, even if some companies are making accommodations for current workers.

    2. Windchime*

      My doctor told me that she is refusing to sign exemptions for anyone. The only people that she feels should be exempt are those undergoing active treatment for cancer, and she is referring those people to their oncologist for the exemption. She has lost several patients over it, but she said that she would never forgive herself if one of her “exempted” patients spread Covid to a vulnerable member of society.

    3. Lessie*

      If your community has been historically subjected to racist treatment from medical establishment, no, it’s not dumb to distrust them. Science is not actually objective in itself. It’s subject to whichever group ruling it, and historically it’s been ruled by racist.

      1. Lessie*

        To be clear, me and my family is vaccinated. Some members of my community are not. I’m not angry at them.

      2. Worldwalker*

        The vaccine is available to everyone, not just—or just not—one particular demographic group. That’s pretty much non-racist if anything ever was.

        And racist scientists (who are fewer and further between than it appears that you think they are) do not necessarily produce incorrect results. James Watson is a pretty despicable human being, but that didn’t make DNA unravel.

        1. American Job Venter*

          I am no proponent of anti-vaxxdom, but I think you’ve misunderstood Lessie’s point. In the US there are patterns of racism in medical care, and examples of Black people being experimented upon wholesale (the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is one of the most famous incidents, but neither the first nor the last). Which adds up to a different calculus for distrusting vaccines than “my freedoms!” and requires a different approach.

          Also… “racist scientists, who are fewer and further between than it appears that you think they are…” Have you done a survey? This benevolent lack of racism among scientists which you cite wasn’t my experience back when I attempted to become a scientist, and one of the reasons I failed to.

      3. Pommette!*

        Thank you for saying this, and for saying it so well.

        “Science” is a process of inquiry, but it’s also a set of institutions imbricated and implicated in existing power structures. Many people have faced, and continue to face, real discrimination by and within these structures. It is not unreasonable for such people to distrusting those institutions and the doxa they produce ! There’s no need to assume that people who distrust public health recommendations are stupid, selfish, or paranoid, and there’s no need for people who are vaccinated to feel angry or distainful of people who aren’t.

        We’re living through a scary period, whose burdens are unevenly distributed. Poorer people, people without full citizenship status, racialized people, etc. face far greater covid risks! Let’s keep our ire for the people and institutions who created that unequal situation, and failed to use their power to save lives.

  19. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Well timed. My boss just left my office after telling me about a conversation she just had with our last holdout. We aren’t making any headway convincing her and we think we’re going to have to make some hard choices in the spring if things are feeling back to normal at all (frankly even if they aren’t).

    It’s hard, and it’s frustrating, but OP this isn’t on you to handle and you don’t have to take it on. If you want to be direct with her, I encourage and applaud you. But I think you’re just setting yourself up for frustration.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I read about a hold-out nurse who was made to watch a video about the vaccine’s development. And who changed her mind after she saw it.

      For those for whom it’s a massive tribal thing, I’m not sure that would work.

  20. Don*

    “This is something you’d be better off talking about with HR” has nice finality and has a nice sense of “or else” without ever saying anything close to it; HR mentions seem to have that effect.

    Personally I’ve lost any interest in humoring folks on what I find to be irrational positions, particularly ones like this that negatively impact me and my family. So I just nonchalantly say things in the vein of “Honestly you and I couldn’t be farther apart on this issue so it’s best if we just don’t talk about it.” Every once in a while someone wants to try to draw me into discussion about it, whatever “it” might be, and I just say “I don’t see any world in which I change my position on this and I doubt anything I would say would change your position so let’s just drop it.”

    Cases like LW’s are convenient because you can honestly say “I don’t have any power to change your situation so it doesn’t really matter what I think anyway.”

    1. JB*

      Agreed, I think the HR line is a very good one.

      LW, you probably cannot change her mind, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to her go off all the time.

      A good friend of mine is in a management position and has an employee who has gone off the deep end because their workplace is now requiring vaccines. He tried to have a frank and compassionate conversation with her, and she started describing increasingly concerning mental health symptoms, he eventually referred/guided her to their EAP for further assistance. He was in a position as her manager to help with that; LW, you are probably not in that position for your coworker and you should be directing her to have these conversations with someone who is.

    2. hbc*

      Yes, this is basically my approach. “I am the wrong person to be complaining to about this” goes a long way. If I get a true inquiry into my stance rather than bad-faith questioning, I might engage further, but there won’t be a debate.

  21. CBB*

    I’m curious about when, where and how Lara is doing all this ranting. If she doing it during Zoom meetings that would be way more annoying (and harder to disengage from) then if she’s posting on a Slack channel.

  22. Rayray*

    This has been a touchy subject in my office too. At least one person is vocally anti-vax and I feel like they’re being given more leeway and more understanding than those who are vaccinated and concerned about potential outbreaks. I’m frustrated and have been trying to craft my own letter or post to the open Friday thread.

    I hate this pandemic so much.

    1. agreement*

      Somebody in my building refuses to wear a mask because I’m told they’re anti-vax. Why are these people being protected?!?!?!? It’s ridiculous. Force him to wear a mask like the rest of us!

      1. tangerineRose*

        The way I’m thinking about this “somebody”: if you don’t want the vaccine, at least wear a mask and keep your distance! Or if you don’t want to wear the mask, figure out some way to stay away from people! I got the vaccine and am still being careful because there are occasional “breakthrough” cases.

    1. Spotted Kitty*

      The majority of people dying are unvaccinated, but the vaccinated can still get sick, yes. It’s like a flu shot. It doesn’t mean you absolutely won’t get the flu, but it does mean you’re more likely to get not severe illness.

      I’m perfectly happy for anti-vaxxers to have their own choices, but that means they shouldn’t go out in public and infect other people.

        1. Tech writer by day*

          He was 84 and severely immunocomprised by disease. Stop implying the vaccine failed. What failed most likely is some unvaccinated & unmasked person spread the virus to him.

        2. CommanderBanana*

          Ret. Gen. Powell was also battling cancer and Parkinson’s disease, and was 84 years old. Implying that because he was vaccinated and still died from COVID-19 complications means that the vaccine doesn’t work is irresponsible.

        3. ThatGirl*

          Yeah he was being treated for multiple myeloma so his immune system was All Kinds of Not Good. Blame the unvaccinated and/or unmasked people around him.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          He was a current cancer patient, multiple myeloma IIRC. Cancer patients are vulnerable to infections, even diseases they are vaccinated against due to weakened immune systems.

        5. Properlike*

          Nowhere did I imply or say that Colin Powell’s vaccine failed/didn’t work. Just adding an example to Spotty Kitty’s point that people who are vaccinated can still get Covid infections, particularly when they’re immunocompromised. A young, fully vaccinated, very healthy friend got Covid over the summer and was thisclose to hospital admission. Without that vaccination, she’d likely be dead.

          Properlike is Full Science here. I’m blaming the willfully unvaccinated for ALL the Covid deaths of the last few months. We don’t have a vaccine fail, we have a human fail.

        6. Worldwalker*

          Anti-vaxxers killed Colin Powell.

          He had multiple myeloma — between the cancer and its treatment, he was immunocompromised. The vaccine can show the immune system what it should be fighting, but that doesn’t do any good if there’s no immune system to fight.

          If it was “personal choice” people could go and die if they wanted to. But it’s not just themselves. It’s the people who can’t get medical treatment for things like heart attacks because the hospitals are clogged with Covid cases. It’s the people who are too young to get vaccinated. It’s the people who are too immunocompromised for the vaccine to work. It’s Colin Powell.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I got a flu shot last year and will get one this year. Several months ago, I got what I think was the flu, but it only lasted 2 days. (Part of why I think it was the flu is that I’ve never had a cold that was that short, and of COVID-19 would have lasted longer). A vaccine might not be perfect, but it can be extremely helpful! Before I got the flu shot regularly, I sometimes had the flu for 2 weeks instead of 2 days, and the flu can turn into pneumonia.

        1. The Dogman*

          “COVID-19 would have lasted longer”

          Just so you know that is not necessarily true.

          I had Covid and was ill for 1 day, bit squiffy for the days before and after it, but it was a mild flu-ish fever and loss of smell for a couple of days and that was all for me.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Unless you were very late getting your flu shot last year, it wasn’t the flu shot that protected you now. Your immunity from that one has faded– They last only about a year, which is why we get one every year. Plus the flu mutates because that’s what a virus does.

    2. ZSD*

      I’m not sure why you think that something not being 100% effective means it’s not a vaccine. If you look up the definition of vaccine, you’ll see that these are in fact vaccines.
      The shots were more effective before the Delta variant arrived. They’re still 70%-80% effective, which means, guess what? *They’re effective.* Vaccination is the best way to prevent Covid.
      (But I suspect Alison will delete your comment shortly anyway, so my response might be moot.)

      1. TootsNYC*

        In fact, Ben Shapiro tweeted back in 2015 that his fully vaccinated 13-month-old son was suffering from pertussis.

        Not every vaccine can be 100%. We still get our TDAP and DTAP shots.

        In anything we do, we’re playing the odds. The goal is to take the steps that improve those odds.

        1. PT*

          I’m a Millennial Old, and there was a whole big resurgence of pertussis among Millennial Olds when we were in our 20s, college age and slightly after, because the pertussis vaccine was changed in the 90s. Pertussis went around the dorms when I was in college- and my private college required everyone to be up to date on that vaccine to come onto campus.

          We were all fully and properly vaccinated, and it turned out that, with time, the booster interval that was recommended in the 90s when that version of the vaccine was developed turned out to be optimistic. Immunity waned sooner than expected, which meant that you’d end up vaccinated but less protected in your early to mid 20s, and susceptible to pertussis.

          Now, we all get some extra boosters to correct for it, and it’s not a big deal.

          1. Nea*

            I’m going to tag onto this and point out that older olds – pre-MMR olds – probably aren’t protected from measles even if they were vaxxed as kids. There are several years in the 60s when the formula wasn’t as effective as thought. I had to go to a travel doctor to get the adult MMR when I found out.

            1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

              That’s odd, I was one of those kids and I had to be revaccinated with the MMR in high school to continue to attend.

            2. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Early Gen X here. I highly recommend a titer test. I pushed my doctor into sending me for one because I learned there had been a bad batch of MMR vaccine and several of my classmates got measles. He all but called me a hypochondriac but signed the paperwork…and then I got an urgent phone call to come in and get a booster ASAP because I had zero immunity to rubella.

            3. Berkeleyfarm*

              I got an MMR a few years back … as it happens I was under the care of a specialist in infectious diseases for something else, asked the question when I was in the office, and was given the shot right away.

              The university had measles going around and I worked with college students. I was told that it did lose effectiveness so went home and urged my Boomer and Gen Jones friends to GET THEIR SHOTS.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          As the pediatrician told my mother (who was mad that I had gotten whooping cough, despite being vaccinated), “Ma’am, if your daughter hadn’t been vaccinated, she would have died.”

          That’s a reality check some people need. Vaccines don’t have to be 100% effective to be helpful.

    3. Anne Elliot*

      I can’t speak for Alison or the OP’er, but personally I do NOT respect her thoughts. She is taking a position that is unsupported by science or by any sense of social responsibility or Christian fellowship. By doing so she is both endangering others and contributing to the continuation of a global pandemic. In no particular order:

      * It absolutely IS a vaccine — perhaps you (and the coworker) are unclear as to what a vaccine is?
      * No one ever said that the vaccine was an absolute guarantor that you won’t die. It makes it substantially less LIKELY that you will die. Colin Powell was fully vaccinated and still died, because he was immunocompromised and some nimrod still gave him the disease
      * There may in fact be long-term consequences for taking the shot, although none have yet surfaced. But there are immediate present consequences to NOT taking the shot. It’s just that those consequences are likely to be visited upon the young, old, and immunocompromised, not the selfish bastard who refuses the shot because something MIGHT happen to THEM, SOMEDAY.

      In case it is not clear, this topic fully enrages me, a generally very calm and reasonable person. So my response to the ranting antivaxxer coworker would be a very cold, “I REALLY don’t want to discuss this with you, now or ever.”

      1. Properlike*

        Don’t you love how the people who are spewing information DEMAND that they get respect for their “beliefs”?

          1. Tuesday*

            Ooh, I try not to talk to her, but I almost want to send this to my anti-vax sister. She loves National Geographic, and this is one of her main anti-vax arguments — even though the absurdity of it is astounding (there could be long-term side effects of the vaccine that we don’t know about yet, so I’ll skip it in favor of the short- and long-term effects of covid that we do know about).

            1. Worldwalker*

              I know one of the first people who got Covid, back before it was recognized as anything but an odd respiratory infection.

              It’ll be two years come February, and she’s *still* suffering long-Covid effects.

              There *might* be long-term effects of any vaccine, sure. But we haven’t seen any. And we *know* there are long-term effects of Covid, because we’ve seen plenty of examples. Someone I know, like, and respect is one of them.

        1. Xantar*

          Correct. There are medical treatments with side effects that don’t show up within 6 months and manifest later. However, they are all treatments that are given continuously over a long period such as a daily pill or regular transfusions or a device implanted in your body. Covid vaccines are given as two shots and then never again. Your body will react to it within a few weeks or it won’t. To have a long term side effect which hides for several months doesn’t make physiological sense.

      2. tangerineRose*

        I was worried about possible long-term consequences from the vaccine, but then I thought about what I already know about consequences from COVID-19 and figured the vaccine was the safest option and got vaccinated.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I’m always interested that so many people assume the breakthrough infections mean the vaccine is no good, instead of seeing it as the virus is so very virulent.

      Because some people have gotten over COVID on the unassisted strength of their immune system–and then gotten it again.

      It’s like rats or cockroaches. You’ll never eliminate all of them; we get out the insecticide/rodenticide anyway.

      1. Tuesday*

        I’m old enough to remember when seat belts became mandatory, and it was the same thing. “I know of someone who died in an accident, and he was wearing a seat belt!” Well, so there you go, I guess they don’t work.

        1. Siege*

          It’s always some weird anecdotal exception, too. I never hear people talking about how the MMR vaccine (as mentioned above) wasn’t great in the three-year span that includes when I got it in the earlyish 80s or using that as an example of their belief that vaccines don’t work; that vaccine doesn’t actually really work as intended! It’s a great case! It’s always “my cousin got hit by a distracted driver who was playing the tuba while he was crossing the street, crosswalks don’t work!” No S, genius, did you ever consider that the problem was the tuba, not the crosswalk?

    5. Justice*

      I found the original comment remarkable. There was ignorance or misinformation in literally every sentence.

    6. Pucci*

      People who wear coats still freeze to death in the cold. does that mean no one should wear a coat in the cold?

      1. Worldwalker*

        People with smoke alarms still die in fires.
        People who use safety equipment still die while rock-climbing.
        People who know how to swim still drown.
        People with good tires still crash their cars.

        Not having/doing any of those things because it might not save you 100% of the time would be downright stupid, agreed? The same is true of vaccines.

  23. Precious Wentletrap*

    “it is so unfair that she will get fired and she is so mad and how could they do this to us and so on”
    “I am -sure- HR has some ideas for you there. Moving on, we’ve got these TPR reports and–“

    1. Properlike*

      “It may not happen. You could also get Covid and die.”

      Bet that would shut her up. But probably not in a good way. And it’s not nice. But still.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I’m done being nice to people like that, never mind kind. Luckily I haven’t run into any vocal anti-vaxxers at my job. I’m going in to the office tomorrow for the first time in 14 months. Still, my employer’s been pretty vocally pro-vax all along, so I’m hopeful that the anti-vaxxers, if there are any, will at least have the sense not to rant about it. If they do, they’ll get the cut direct from me. Luckily I don’t need to collaborate with people much to get my job done, so when I talk to people, it’s mostly social, and I won’t hesitate to cut social chat short with anti-vaxxers.

  24. Nobby Nobbs*

    OP, it sounds like you’re already following the advice on how to talk about vaccine hesitancy and your coworker isn’t biting. It might be time to give her up as a lost cause and save your reserves of patient compassion for those who are genuinely hesitant rather than flat-out antivaxxers. Pick your targets.

  25. Former Young Lady*

    The saying goes that you can’t reason someone out of a position she didn’t reason herself into.

    To that, I’ll add this: many people in our time have exempted themselves from critical thinking and from compassion for others. I’m a firm believer in leading by example, but I’ve never been able to demonstrate enough logic or empathy that even a fraction of it would rub off on such people.

  26. A Fair Take On the Unfair*

    “You have been told you may remain remote in lieu of vaccination. If you have complaints, please bring them to HR. If you complain to me again, I will consider it harassment and I will follow company procedure on that as well. Are we clear?”

    Chalk that up to things I wish I had the confidence to say in person. More realistically:

    “Uh huh. Oh, were you talking about vaccines again? Please drop it.”
    “I have asked you to stop talking about the vaccination policy. Your job is at threat because of your inability to do the work, not your vaccination status.”
    “I would like to return to now. Do you have the papers I asked for?” <– the grey rock method of barely acknowledging the existence of the verboten topic

    In my experience, it is not worthwhile to engage an anti-vaxxer on vaccines. There is no amount of data, no source so valid, no fact so complete that it can engage with misinformation rooted in bad faith interpretations of poorly sourced material or flat out incorrect soundbites. You will only make them dig in harder.

    It is, however, really worthwhile to emphasize that work is what matters most. The policy has been set by the company, you (and presumably 99% of your coworkers) are fine with it, alternatives have been proposed… there is literally no reason to argue about it anymore. So stop. And don't let her do it either.

  27. Cafe au Lait*

    I took a workshop on verbal judo. The one thing the instructor said, which has stuck with me for ages, was a response he gave to coworkers complaining about their checks. “It always cashes for me.”

    I wonder if you could say something to Lara like “It’s a choice you’ll need to make” (when it comes to getting fired). Or “Well, that’s your choice.” Something that redirects the responsibility back onto her.

  28. Justin*

    “But I don’t want to sound like I’m on a soap box or calling her out”

    But, if you must speak to her at all, you have every right to call her out.

    Since you don’t actually need to be near her, though, ask her to stop if she’s interrupting something, and cross your fingers she does indeed get fired if the day comes.

  29. no clever username*

    This is a much more compassionate response from both Alison and OP than I find myself able to make these days.

  30. Lobsterman*

    Plague rats cannot be reasoned with. The fact that she’s bringing it up means she’s trying to pick fights, which is harassment. You don’t have to put up with that and can report it to your boss, her boss, HR, etc. And yes, of course this means her judgment is suspect in general.

    In general, interact as little as possible, make it extremely clear that you never want to discuss this issue, and wait for her to get fired because of the mandates.

  31. DBB*

    If Lara starts complaining about losing her job while OP is training her for the new task maybe a little dose of reality will help. Perhaps OP can help her snap out of it by saying, “I guess I need to start training someone else to do this since you will not be here to contribute.”

  32. JBI*

    “If you insist on putting me at risk with your position, I’m actually OK with it if you get fired.”

  33. Thursdaysgeek*

    Alison, thank you for pointing out that there is some very directed and professional propaganda and misinformation going on, and it is not surprising that it affects people. I don’t know a solution, but in many ways, I think it is an even bigger problem than covid.

    1. LizzE*

      In 2019, many top health agencies in the US and globally identified anti-vaccine movements as pressing public health issues. How unfortunate that almost two years later, a pandemic would validate their concerns.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        To be fair, we were already seeing resurgences of things like measles and mumps, which have had vaccines available for decades.

    2. Some dude*

      Most of the major right-wing media outlets have glommed onto the anti-vaxx thing (even as they themselves are vaccinated!!!) because it is a way to rile people up/get clicks/get views. It is sick.

      1. Thursdaysgeek*

        And to what end? Just to cause people to get sick and die? Because that is what is happening. That, and us fighting. It… getting views shouldn’t be at that high of a price, and people who care about the country would not be doing that. So why?

        1. 1LFTW*

          Well, they don’t care about the country. They care about enriching themselves and amassing power. Sowing confusion, fear, and anger drives traffic to their various media empires helps them to do both of those things.

          In a way, it’s *better* for them if people die, because it raises the stakes. More fear. More anger. More division. More blame. Yeah, society crumbles as a result, but I think these folks are just so certain they’ll be on top when the dust settles that they don’t care.

  34. Chicken Situation*

    Maybe it’s because I work in public health, but I have no freaking sympathy for people who believe the misinformation out there. By now it’s so obvious that it’s misinformation and it doesn’t even require critical thinking to realize how ridiculous it is. I would absolutely question her judgment on work-related things and would be incredibly blunt when she starts ranting. I would also see if I could get out of working with her because breakthrough cases do happen, and because she and those around her refuse to be vaccinated, she’s much more likely to be a carrier.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I know some people experience a different internet than I do, but at some point who do you even trust? Not doctors? Not experts? Aunt Jane with her Facebook repost? Did we all not learn how to evaluate sources in middle school?

      1. Nia*

        The ridiculous thing is that they do trust doctors just not about the vaccine. The unvaccinated are clogging up hospitals because it turns out they do want medical treatment from those same doctors they say they don’t trust.

        1. DarthVelma*

          Yes. They didn’t want to get the vaccine because it only gotten approved for “emergency use”. Now, of course, at least some vaccines have gotten full authorization, and they still won’t get the jab. But they’ll head straight the doctor or hospital to get monoclonal antibody treatment – which, last time I checked, was also only approved for “emergency use”.

          The hypocrisy makes me stabby.

          1. Bee Eye Ill*

            My favorite part is causing shortages of horse dewormer. They’d rather buy drugs from Tractor Supply than listen to actual doctors.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Except they run to the hospitals and then scream about the doctors not giving them the treatments they want. If you want to treat yourself with some horse dewormer and vitamins, stay home and leave that bed/vent open for someone else who needs it.

          1. Anon Supervisor*

            Or they scream that they’re not actually dying of COVID and that the doctor is lying to them…

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          The final straw that led to me cutting off my niece was the tantrum she threw a couple months ago about the ER doctor she went to see recommending that she get vaccinated and how utterly gross that was. Nope. Done.

        4. Worldwalker*

          Yeah, I don’t get that part.

          Doctor: This vaccine will help keep you from getting sick.
          Antivaxxer: I don’t trust doctors, science, or medicine.
          *gets sick*
          Antivaxxer: Doctor, doctor, save me!
          How? If they don’t trust medicine, shouldn’t they be rubbing crystals or something?

        5. SoTIRED*

          Right now my area is getting hit hard with West Nile in addition to Covid cases. Our hospitals are so full oftentimes people are waiting a long time for beds. Hospitals have to turn away patients. Our Covid isn’t as bad as some but yah, those bed really are needed for other things. It is so frustrating. There is one young guy who has been in the hospital for about 50 days – 3 or 4 weeks on ECMO now. He refused the vaccine. His entire family hasn’t gotten the vaccine. He sent his kids to school after exposure. Like WTF. Only so many patients can be on ECMO at a time because of lack of equipment plus they are a 1:1 which often means other ICU nurses might have to take 3 patients instead of their usual 2.

          90-95% of our COVID patients are *unvaccinated.* The sheer selfishness. And a bet a lot of these people probably would say they are “Christian” and care about their fellow wo/man.

      2. Me*

        I work with someone who’s husband has stage 4 lung cancer. He refuses the vax. The doctors he trusts to treat his cancer, which btw I assure you he knows nothing about the medicines being used, have told him to get vaxxed. And he won’t. Trusts them to treat his cancer, but not to try to save him from an early grave.

        He doesn’t know whats in his chemo, what the long term side effects are, nada. But the vaccine is a no go. There is no logic. It’s all mental gymnastics.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          My husband has leukemia. He’s refusing the vax too. All I can do now is keep the life insurance premiums paid.

          1. Esmeralda*

            I’m so so sorry :(
            Please try to take care of yourself, too. The stress and sadness must be so very hard.

        2. learnedthehardway*

          That is just bizarre. I mean, truly and really out there.

          I guarantee you, there are long term side effects of chemo and radiation. And they’re well documented. But you take the treatment anyway, because it’s that or death.

          And being at increased risk for COVID because you’re immune compromised is no joke.

        3. Worldwalker*

          Long-term effects of chemo: Multiple, and nasty. But you’re alive to suffer from them.
          Even if there *were* long-term effects from the Covid vaccine, that would be a valid argument.

      3. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

        Millennials and young gen-xers did, Boomers didn’t. I think that’s actually part of the problem.

      4. Xantar*

        “Did we all not learn how to evaluate sources in middle school?”

        No. Sadly, quite a lot of people did not.

      5. NotAnotherManager!*

        My elderly in-laws are not vaccinated, which has proved really upsetting to my spouse because, yes, they do trust some Facebook-shared news story or what their neighbor heard from someone two towns over more than the “lamestream media” or medical professionals. (The skepticism of medical professionals is nothing new – I’m not allowed to tell my MIL that her son takes a specific medicine because she believes it’s poison that killed a relative who did not die because of said medication.)

        They are both intelligent people who did well at their jobs, raised smart kids, and one completed a bachelor’s degree in three years while working full-time. I don’t know if they’re just mired in the rural red soup and neighbors/friends that contribute to their current stances or what, but they were not like this until the past 10 years or so. Every time they call, they report some new red-bubble Facebook rumor that my husband tries to debunk. I have to remind my kids all the time not to say rude things about the unvaccinated/Trump supporters in front of them. We have not seen them since 2019 because we wouldn’t travel to them before the kids were vaccinated and we’ve asked that they not travel to us because they’re not. My MIL’s already started insisting we come visit this December and is losing patience with my husband’s wait-and-see approach.

        1. Keyboard Jockey*

          This is where we are with my spouse’s parents too (and mine, to a lesser extent). Smart people, sending us facebook videos and archive dot org PDFs but refusing any sort of newspaper article. The latest was from some financial advisor who claimed to invest in vaccines refuting the idea that Delta exists. My FIL was livid when we got vaccinated, and our conversation was me saying, “Half a million people have died, Frank” and him responding, “That’s less than 0.1% of the population!” Like… how many people need to die for you to take something seriously?!

          We have told them straight up: we love you, and because of that, we can’t have this conversation with you any more. Doesn’t stop them from trying, but having the right to refuse engagement is better than nothing.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            And all of those half-million people were someone’s child, parent, aunt/uncle, grandparent, brother/sister, cousin, best friend, whatever. If someone I love died, I would give approximately zero shits what percentage of the population they were.

            I was very concerned about my mom because she can get some kooky ideas, but she called me to figure out how to sign up for a shot through the county health department when she was eligible as a priority group and is already looking at the booster as she’s multiple-factors of high risk.

            1. Worldwalker*

              I knew two of them.

              Real people, not just statistics. It doesn’t matter that they were “only” part of .2% of the population — they were Mike and Dave and they shouldn’t have died.

              And my uncle and my aunt shouldn’t have spent two months in the hospital, and my friend shouldn’t be suffering from long-hauler symptoms even now … all real people. All lucky to be alive. All not “just” statistics.

        2. allathian*

          Ugh. If you go see them, please stay in a hotel if you can. At least you’d have somewhere else to go when you can’t take their crap anymore.

    2. Me*

      Yep. Public Health, Emergency Management (me), the vast majority of medical professionals, most major religious clergy et al have bent over backwards to address misinformation.

      If we can’t convince these people, OP you do not need to operate under any kind of illusion that you have a responsibility to try to convince them either.

      You have my full blessing to tell her to shut up (professionally of course) any time she brings it up.

    3. Anon Supervisor*

      I work in health care and the number of people with direct contact with patients who are anti-vcxx is amazing to me. These are probably the same people who would call me a sheep for believing the CDC, yet they’re a F-ing maverick for swallowing whatever nonsense they read on FB that fits their narrative.

  35. anonymous73*

    IME, people who are hard core against the vaccine will only change their mind is if they or a close loved one contracts the virus and suffers greatly because of it, or if she is threatened with being fired. And even that doesn’t make a difference with some people. And I’ve learned over the last year and a half that I can’t change people’s minds and I just need to do everything I can to protect myself. I wouldn’t engage with her other than to shut down her whining as Alison suggests. It’s similar to the letter the other day about the friend who vents constantly but doesn’t want to recognize her part in it. Lara has a choice, and that doesn’t mean she gets to force her co-workers to listen to her whine about the consequences.

    1. Windchime*

      Even the death of a loved one often doesn’t matter to the anti-vaxx crowd. My cousin died in August of complications from Covid. Her own *brother* insists that she didn’t die of Covid, she died of a lung infection. (Yes……that she got because of Covid). According to him, Covid only exists because hospitals are getting paid extra for every person they diagnose with Covid (huh?). The refusal to believe is strong with this crowd.

      1. Bee Eye Ill*

        I actually saw a post a few weeks ago from somebody telling people to avoid hospitals because a friend who died from Covid “went in there alive”.

        1. Botanist*

          I’m almost giggling at this one because it’s so completely nonsensical. (But in a really awful way, if people who are refusing the vaccine and also refusing any other mitigating action like masking/distancing did develop a mistrust of hospitals to the point where they refused to be treated at one, at least the hospitals wouldn’t be so overrun? I can’t believe I’m feeling jaded enough to say that even.)

    2. Anon Supervisor*

      That’s not even a given. I’ve heard stories of people literally using their last breath before being intubated that they do not have COVID. It’s completely bizarre.

  36. Colette*

    – Don’t ask her why she’s not getting vaccinated. You won’t hear anything useful. (Freedom! Trust my immune system! Not a vaccine! etc.)
    – If she’s complaining about it, shut it down. “You’ve said this before, let’s move on”, “Yup, that’s the policy”, etc.

    1. esmerelda*

      I have made the mistake of asking “why” when I know the reason will be full of misinformation that I really don’t care to hear. Don’t be like me. ;)

  37. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Don’t bother. They won’t be persuaded. Engaging you in a never-ending argument is a strategy. Avoid her.

  38. TootsNYC*

    I might just drop off a single never-changing sentiment like:

    “I hope someday you’ll be able to change your mind.”
    “have you given any thought to what you’d need to see in order to change your mind?”
    “Well, I promise not to say ‘I told you so’ if you change your mind in the future.”

  39. Actual Rhetorician*

    So, two thoughts:

    One is simply affirming how widespread vaccine misinformation is. I have friends (in a red part of the country) who’ve been told by their *doctor* that because they’ve had Covid, they don’t need to get a vaccine. Especially depending on geography, it’s very possible that even trusted sources are not providing reliable information about the importance and safety of vaccination. This doesn’t excuse Lara, but it does indicate that her refusal may be coming from a complicated place.

    Which leads me to my second point, how to talk about it. A lot of rhetoric and communication research stresses that you cannot convince closed audiences through facts, or through snark, fun as it may be; people are persuaded as much by their communities and by their feelings as by their rational mind. You also cannot convince people in a day, so to speak; changing behavior, even more than changing people’s mind, just takes a long time. Honestly, OP, your idea to ask your coworker to share a little more about why they won’t get vaccinated is a good one; it will give you a place to start and show that you’re authentically interested in where they’re coming from, e.g. you’re not just trying to dunk on them. Other possibilities: 1) identifying people that Lara trusts or looks up to (religious leaders, celebrities, community leaders, etc) who’ve been vaccinated; 2) showing that vaccination actually aligns with her existing ways of being and identities (see those articles arguing to conservatives that vaccination is about duty to family and obligation, both of which traditional conservatives care about); or 3) finding common ground or showing that you hear her viewpoint, then building from there to argue for the vaccine.

    But I’d also echo observations by others, that what you may be able to do is limited. The reality is, the fault lines are shifting; and what may have persuaded somebody ten or even five years ago may not do so any longer; and at some point you’ll just have to cut your losses and find a way to move on.

    1. LilyP*

      I also think it could be worth *one* shot to have the conversation — the line about sharing reasons she won’t get vaccinated is a great one. It’s not too personal for work or none of your business, since she’s the one that brought it up and is continuing to harp on it at work. You’re definitely not going to get her to do an about-face on the spot but some kindly-stated suggestions for places to do research could plant a seed with her.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. But it’s also not something the LW has to engage in at all. She can just redirect Lara, talk to her about work only, and refuse to listen to the anti-vaxx talk. If Lara doesn’t change her mind, she’ll be gone by January anyway.

  40. Wrench Turner*

    I’m glad to hear companies are taking an affirmative approach to it. I do residential and commercial maintenance and repair services (think HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc) and my company stated that they will not be following the vaccine mandate for now and not requiring anyone to get it. Even though less than 24hrs after that memo went out, someone in my branch tested positive It’s maddening.

  41. L'étrangere*

    As an aside, not for the OP who should follow Allison’s advice if at all possible and shut this down rather than make any attempt at converting a closed (locked up, shut down, blue screen of death) mind.. If anyone wishes to embark on a conversation with an antivaxxer dear to them, there is a strategy proven to be less ineffective Basically, focus on talking about the effects of the disease itself. I have been surprised to have some mild success with this

  42. Ugh*

    We have one coworker that won’t get vaxxed. We have covered her during four quarantines since the vaccines came out, and then two weeks out when she actually got COVID. It’s basically like, 10 weeks she’s been off since the vaccine came out for COVID and quarantines. Her work falls on two of us, and we are both ready to revolt, or jab her ourselves. No advice, but I can relate. Good luck to you!

    1. StellaBella*

      Can you tally up these costs and go to payroll and management on her getting ten weeks off out of the year? And costs to your team due to overcwork?

    2. I earned it.*

      This happened to my workplace also. We are four people in a small office, half vaxxed , half anti-vax. We had a coworker from another branch in our office, turned out they were sick with Covid, the anti-vax staff had to quarantine and their work fell on the two of us. I worked +60 hours for multiple weeks to keep things running. When my boss came back from quarantine he apologized for putting us in that situation and said he “wished there was something he could do to make it up to me”. My replay was, there are two: sign over your commission check for this month, or at least the half of it that I earned for you, and GET THE F-ING SHOT!

  43. Meep*

    We have an anti-vaxxer in the office who was anti-vax before COVID. One year we were talking about the flu shot and she made a fuss about how she never gets the flu shot because it is a waste of her time and has no benefit (to her). When I went on the vaccine trial, I told everyone but her. When she finally found out she screeched at how reckless I was being. This was the same woman who was a large part of WHY I was on the vaccine trial in the first place – she was playing a game of COVID chicken where she was purposefully hanging out with people who were waiting for COVID tests and only informing me after she forced me into a confined space with her for hours.

    February rolled around and she faked getting her vaccine to be “in with the in-crowd.” She confided and let the only other unvaccinated person know she had been “vaccinated” via COVID in November. (Also refused to get tested during it as she would have to disclose it. Instead, she got the anti-body test after.)

    Point is, COVID reaffirmed how many selfish people are in the world, but I was fortunate to know my anti-vaxxer was already a selfish doofus.

    1. Me*

      “This was the same woman who was a large part of WHY I was on the vaccine trial in the first place – she was playing a game of COVID chicken where she was purposefully hanging out with people who were waiting for COVID tests and only informing me after she forced me into a confined space with her for hours.”

      I’m sorry that is assault. I hope you reported her ass to HR. And filed a police report.

      1. Meep*

        She is HR, unfortunately. Tiny company and rather than hire an actual HR person who would recommend that her butt is on the first train to fired town (for a multitude of other reasons included but not limited to sharing employee’s personal medical information, threatening not to pay employees, creating a hostile work environment), she is acting “HR”. If I complain about anyone of my coworkers, there is a 99.9% chance it is her.

        I should have probably left years ago, but at this point, I am vesting my stock and watching the dumpster fire inside of a human suit.

    2. Anon for this, colleagues read here*

      As the parent of a son who’s been on chemo off and on for 14 years, and may be back on again in the future, I f’n hate anti-vaxxers and have for years. I’ve been able to avoid hearing about and from them pretty well (blocking on social media, etc). This year has been terrible because I have to hear about them.

      I particularly do not understand people whose stated motivation is, you can’t tell me what to do. Really? You’re so enamored of your illogical “you’re not the boss of me” stance that you’re willing to let your children get sick and even die? WTH, man.

  44. cheeky*

    I wouldn’t bother engaging. Let the chips fall where they may for her. I hope your company does hold a firm line.

  45. Phil*

    It won’t work. Anti vax has become a religion, or, more properly, a cult. You don’t beat a cult with logic or facts,

  46. iiii*

    At some point I would snap and tell her that anti-vax is about as brave and principled as an eight-year-old refusing to eat vegetables. That she’s not eight any more. That your employer is NOT her mommy, WON’T keep trying to cajole her into good behavior, WILL fire her if she refuses to meet their requirements for employment. That personal responsibility is not just for other people, and if she insists on making them fire her it WILL be her own damn fault. So grow up, stop whining, and either get vaccinated or find another job.
    And yes, that would quickly make the professional relationship much frostier. But it sounds like she’s not going to be working there for long, so I’m not seeing the need to spend the rest of her tenure coddling her.

  47. Kylie*

    Our health and safety manager at work (!!!) is rabidly anti-vaccine and anti-mask. I recently complained of a headache due to changes in the weather, and she interrupted me to shout, “It’s the mask!” She once dropped by my office uninvited (she was passing by and overheard) while I was casually discussing the vaccine with a high-risk direct report. She *actively* discouraged my employee from getting the shot, against her doctor’s advice. She actually told my employee that she would become sicker from the Delta variant if she got vaccinated than if she didn’t get vaccinated – the exact opposite of what her doctor had told her.

    Last week, I was present when she was passing along instructions to another employee’s high risk family members, whom she has never met, to tell them how much ivermectin is safe for them to take. They found some lying around their horse barn and started dosing themselves at her advice, because they’re very ill with COVID right now and they’re high risk, but unvaccinated. She has no medical training or licensing whatsoever to be handing out this kind of advice. I have been absolutely appalled by her behavior and comments but I don’t know if I want to spend the capital required to report something like this. I usually stay silent when she bangs on about it because I know it’s a losing battle to try to talk sense into someone who is this steeped in conspiracy theories and junk science, but I’m getting really sick of the rude interruptions and horrible, unsolicited advice.

      1. Kylie*

        It does bother me to stay silent on it, because what she’s doing is so egregious. I would never dream of giving medical advice to coworkers on any topic, let alone one that is life or death. It takes a hell of a lot of nerve.

        1. 1LFTW*

          Honestly, I’m seconding Colette’s advice to contact the public health department. Or your local OSHA branch, or whoever certifies this person (if she’s certified in anything) because this is egregiously in violation of her responsibilities as a Health and Safety person. It would be bad enough if it were her own vaccine refusal, but she’s gone way beyond that into spreading misinformation about masking/vaccination, and way beyond THAT into advising people to literally poison themselves with horse medicine. She’s doing “health and safety” wrong.

          Best of luck with this, Kylie. This is awful and you shouldn’t have to be dealing with it.

        2. thelettermegan*

          +1 contacting someone regarding this incident. If she can’t understand vaccines, what else is she missing?

    1. allathian*

      She shouldn’t be working in health and safety. Report her to the public health department in your area, she’s irresponsible and endangering other people.

    2. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      Maybe just address the fact of the interruption and don’t bother adressing the topic? Because interrupting is rude!

  48. House Tyrell*

    I would leave it alone. You’re not going to change her mind if her whole family is opposed to it and you’re just going to stress yourself out trying. If your company is firing everyone who isn’t vaccinated then she won’t be someone you have to deal with after January either. I suppose they could let her and others go full time remote but then that’s a risk if there ever is a need to come in person. My office fired everyone who isn’t fully vaccinated 2 weeks ago (which ended up being no one) and since we’re a private university, also removed all students from the campus who weren’t vaccinated (which was less than a handful.) They aren’t welcome to return until a new semester after they are vaccinated against covid. We’re also required to get flu shot and will be terminated if we don’t have them by Thanksgiving.

  49. HailRobonia*

    I have an anti-vax coworker who is allowed to work remotely every day – whereas us vaccinated folks are required to be in the office 2-3 times per week. It really pisses me off because it is rewarding bad behavior.

    1. Firm Believer*

      That’s exactly what I’m afraid of. I have two anti-vax employees and everyone acts like it’s super easy to just let them work from home. But then they get the reward of not coming in! How is that an incentive to get it and how does that not hurt the morale of others?

    2. Person from the Resume*

      It’s keeping you and all other employees safe from the (potential) plague carrier. So that’s a win for you.

      Unfortunately that does seem to be rewarding what is considered a perk for being brainwashed into bad behavior. (I am assuming she doesn’t have medical or religious exemption. (From what I have heard no major organized religion is actually against the vaccine.)) I prefer the vaccine mandates that make employment conditional on getting the vaccine or obtaining a valid exemption. This punishes the anti-social behavior.

      1. HailRobonia*

        What really gets me is that my office is at a Leading Research Institution™ and both she and her supervisor are anti-vax. Our executive director gives lip service to the idea that we are advancing STEM education meanwhile he’s coddling lunatics.

  50. Essentially Cheesy*

    I’ve had to come to terms with “Love God” and Love thy neighbor” look a lot different to other people that I would have thought felt similarly to me. A good number of these people are close relatives and respected coworkers. It’s been very eye opening and saddening.

  51. TootsNYC*

    I read about a hold-out nurse who was made to watch a video about the vaccine’s development. And who changed her mind after she saw it.

    For those for whom it’s a massive tribal thing, I’m not sure that would work.

  52. ThatGirl*

    I have a neighbor who’s a high school teacher and over the years we’ve been pretty friendly, chatting while our dogs sniff each other, etc. A couple months ago she was talking about wanting to move to another state and said “well, I’m probably gonna get fired soon” and I said oh, why? and she said “cause they’re mandating vaccines and I’m just not gonna get it” – her rationale was that she “never gets sick”.

    At that point I thought, well, you dug your own proverbial grave – didn’t feel like arguing with her in broad daylight in the middle of the sidewalk. If she were a true friend, family, etc I might consider getting into trying to understand her mindset better so I could change it. But in this case it’s not worth it.

    And if it were a coworker, honestly, I’d just say “you have a choice to get the vaccine or not, and you know what the consequences are if you don’t, so please stop complaining to me”.

  53. esmerelda*

    For what it’s worth, OP, you’re not alone. I have a couple coworkers like this and I also have family member like this (as I’m sure so many of us do). It’s not an enjoyable place to be in so I feel for you. I’ve not found anything to be effective, honestly. Not correcting their misinformation, not explaining my reasoning beyond getting the vaccine, not genuinely questioning them so I can understand, not challenging them, not walking away (they follow me), not telling them I don’t want to talk about it over and over again (they talk louder on purpose to ignore me or say “well, anyway” and continue their ant-vax rant). Sometimes I just don’t want to hear a constant stream of negativity that’s also chock-full of misinformation and conspiracy, but I have found literally nothing I do to be effective in stopping the flood. The best solution I’ve found is let them talk and put their own foot in their mouth, as anti-vaxxers are already so insistent on doing. Bonus points if the anti-vaxxer has a naturally loud voice. Lara wants to be heard? Give her what she wants. Let others in your office witness how absurd Lara is. Why make her hide her true colors? That’s all you can do.

    1. PT*

      Correcting them doesn’t work. They just dig in and double down and feel bad for YOU, because you are brainwashed reading your biased sources and you’re not smart enough to know better that you’re reading misinformation from places like NPR and the New York Times. *eyeroll*

      1. esmerelda*

        Haha, have you been speaking to my father by any chance? ;) That’s what all conversations with him are like (though I’m sure I’m not the only one with anti-vaxer family!). I love him, but wow, I am beyond sick of being told that the NYT is pure evil and such and being told to just watch Fox News and Fox News only instead. It’s weird how people in his generation seem to think you have to be monogamous with a news station. But I digress… *shrugs

        1. periwinkle*

          It’s weird. My brother is one of those conservative, “I don’t trust the NY Times” people. However, he got the vaccine as soon as he was eligible and thinks anti-vaxxers are idiots. Go figure!

      2. Stitch*

        I had a longer reply that I think got poofed. My Dad is literally a specialist physician (did a special fellowship in his field) and he gets told to “do the research”. My Dad of course was also one of the first people to get the COVId vaccine outside of trials (as a doctor who is nearly 70 and one who spends a lot of time in the NICU, it was pretty crucial).

    2. Stitch*

      I actually gave up on these people before COVID.

      My Dad is actually a pediatrician specializing in neurodevelopment. That means once he was a pediatrician already he spent years and year at one of the top medical schools/hospitals in the country studying how the brain develops and how to treat neurodevelopment issues. This includes autism. My Dad goes to, and even speaks at Autism medical conferences. Point is, literally an expert, one of the most experienced ones in the country. My Dad in part was motivated to do this because he had an autistic sister and saw how inadequate care was for her.

      Someone I knew was ranting about MMR and autism and I mentioned “Hey, My Dad’s an expert on this and he says vaccines don’t cause autism”.

      The hoops this person jumped through. They actually accused My Dad of wanting kids to get autism to drum up business (Dad actually makes much more in billings on well child visits than his long complicates neuro visits). When I pointed out I was vaccinated as was my kid, he claimed my Dad must have told the pediatrician not to give my kid the real shot (we live in a different a different state, my Dad doesn’t even know which practice my kid goes to).

      My Dad, a teddy bear of a doctor who sings silly songs to his patients and has pursued a career to help kids, part of some secret evil cabal. Right.

      Point is, there is no winning. People just double down.

      1. The Smiling Pug*

        I’m so sorry to hear about that person. I hate it when all logical thinking shuts down.

  54. Prefer my pets*

    I have a spreadsheet on my desktop & every time I find out a coworker is refusing to get vaccinated, I add there name to it just in case they manage to get an exemption instead of being fired. I’m high risk & need to know who I simply cannot be indoors with even masked for my own safety.

    So far, every single person who is taking the fight all the way has VERY problematic views on other fronts & I will be thrilled to never have to deal with them again. Universally, they are all about as racist, sexist, & homophobic as you would expect trumpers to be. Bad enough in private businesses, absolutely unacceptable in civil service. I about did a jig when I found out one of the managers had decided to retire than get vaccinated…she’s had a ridiculous number of EEO complaints over the years.

  55. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Most of these anti-vaxxers are brainwashed. Now, I do understand rational thought and analysis.

    I have used terms like AVA (anti-vaxxer a**holes) and VFC (vaccine fraidy cats)…. people get offended.

    Hell, I DON’T CARE. I care about my fellow Americans and Canadians not getting COVID. I’ve seen too many acquaintances suffer from it and yes DIE from it.

    One said “oh are watching this on that liberal media?” NO. I have two nephews who are emergency room doctors – who likely had to “play God” – who gets the ICU bed? Who gets the ventilator? And who gets turned out to die?
    And send bodies to refrigerator trucks because the mortuary system can’t handle the bodies.

    Or seeing 80 people die in a nursing home in the next town?

    Sorry – I have no tolerance for AVA/VFCs. And if you get offended at my terminology, trust me. YOU ANTI-VAXXERS OFFEND ME A LOT MORE.

  56. kate in Colorado*

    “The shock of ‘who are you?’ and ‘how do we move forward when I have learned this devastating thing about who you are and your willingness to inflict harm on others?'”

    I have felt this in my soul since the 2016 election. :(

    1. esmerelda*

      Same! That line from Alison’s response struck me, too. It’s striking me the undertone of sorrow in the letter, the response, and mostly in these comments. We’re angry, too, certainly, but anger is always a secondary emotion. Underneath is sadness that we can’t all work together towards a COVID-free world – heck, that we can’t seem to work together on really anything. I want to end this thought with a positive comment like “I hope we can be better” but I say that knowing that the answer does not lie within me because I’m already doing all I can.

    2. Might Be Spam*

      I’m feeling the same way and I don’t know how to go forward. For now I’m just avoiding them, but I can’t do that forever. I’m so disappointed in some friends and family. I’m grieving for the relationships that will never recover.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, that’s just it. Even if COVID disappeared tomorrow, the knowledge that some people won’t go through the slightest inconvenience to protect themself or others won’t go away.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      I’ve been experiencing that for a lot longer than five years.

      Many of my long-time acquaintances, several long-time friends, and a few close kin, some politically liberal and some conservative, have seemingly abandoned their critical thinking skills and chosen to live in lockstep with one ideology or another, rather than thinking through the effects these ideologies have on real people – including themselves and those whom they love.

      It would be so much better if we could distinguish between our preferences and our principles, and if we would look for ways to find practical solutions to problems, while reconciling our pragmatism with our true principles.

      I am not optimistic about the future of society.

  57. Person from the Resume*

    But after that meeting, she is constantly whining about how she is going to get fired for not getting the shot. She keeps going on rants about how it is so unfair that she will get fired and she is so mad and how could they do this to us and so on.

    My response would make it unpleasant for her to keep whining to me.
    – “I think it’s great the company is mandating vaccines in order to keep employees safe and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
    – “I appreciate the company putting employees health first and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
    – “I support the company’s vaccine policy and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

    Probably not helpful albeit true:
    – “You’re brainwashed so shut up.”

    1. A Pinch of Salt*

      I love the 1st three (and the 4th, in a fantastic world where I wouldn’t get fired). Positive, professional, directed at the company but still drives the point home. Bravo!

  58. Anon for now*

    As one of my friends reminded me, people typically seek out information that validates their opinion and not challenges it. So I think the strategy of not being willing to listen to the rants is a good one.

    I also have fo say, that it’s stories like this why I’m so thankful my employer has a vaccine mandate.

  59. AutumnLover*

    Very good friends of mine are in marriage counselling as he refuses to vaccinate (and I’m in Canada)

    1. Pennyworth*

      Didn’t some man in Canada recently attack a nurse who had vaccinated his wife the previous day WITHOUT HIS PERMISSION.

    2. Siege*

      That’s a divorcin’.

      In all sincerity, I could not remain in a marriage or a partnership or even a taxi with someone I knew to be that selfish, particularly since it so, so often comes with just bottom-line hateful beliefs about others. We’re all stuck on Earth together; let’s try not to punch others directly in the eye, you know?

  60. Monte*

    I don’t engage with these people anymore. I have been fully vaccinated since the day I was eligible, but only one other person that I work with is. My boss gave almost the entire office COVID (working up close together, no masks, while coughing). He died and another came within inches of hospitalization. They still won’t get vaccinated because apparently they think they’re immune now and they survived anyway. It’s completely mind boggling.

  61. Andrew*

    I saw a scientist talking about the best way to discuss vaccines with people like this. I will say, I would opt not to talk to them at all, but if you want to approach it….

    Ask the person, “On a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 is ‘I’m never getting the vaccine’ and 5 is ‘I’m definitely getting the vaccine,’ where are you?” If they say a 0, then there’s no point in talking about it, but if they say 1-4, then ask them why they’re not a 0. Let them tell you why they even remotely consider getting the vaccine, and then reinforce those points. Expand on them if you can. Then you have them focusing on why it’s a good idea.

    1. LizB*

      I’m putting this idea in my back pocket for when I will likely have to have this convo with some family members in the medium-term future. Thank you for the tips!

    2. The Smiling Pug*

      This is a good response. I’ll try to remember it the next time my unvaccinated friend brings it up.

  62. GlamorousNonprofiteer*

    There’s not a chance ON EARTH that I would work in an office where someone is deliberately unvaccinated. It’s a requirement at the nonprofit that I run and I won’t let anyone in our office for any reason unless they are vaccinated because I can’t risk my staff or my own health. Your business leadership has drawn a line in the sand with clear direction and requirements. If this person, who clearly doesn’t care about the health and well-being of you or your officemates, continues to rant on about their lies and malarkey, I would ask your supervisor and HR to handle it.

    Protect yourself at all costs.

  63. Queen Anon*

    Don’t frustrate yourself. There’s no point in trying to educate people who are willfully ignorant. (Also, I’ve quit using the word “misinformation” and begun calling it what it is – lies. Willfully ignorant people are listening to – and spreading – lies.) Your own mental health will be much better if you don’t engage.

  64. Stitch*

    I have an aunt who went anti-vax and the only thing that got her vaccinated was my cousin (not her daughter, she’s both of our aunt) being very clear she wouldn’t let aunt see her baby until she was vaccinated. My mom took her to get the J&J vaccine because we kind of knew she’d fight getting a second dose.

    I’m in the parent board of a daycare and what worked was we required unvaccinated staff to test like every 72 hours (we paid for the tests,, it’s moving to 100% mandatory next month). That much testing was such a pain that all the unvaccinated workers got vaccinated within a couple weeks.

    Point is, what seems to work best are consequences. So if your job requires it, my guess is then she will comply. When push comes to shove most people will take the shot rather than lose their jobs.

  65. AKchic*

    Your coworker keeps saying she’s going to be fired, but you haven’t said anything about your company actually mentioning that they are going to escalate to this step should employees refuse to vaccinate. Is Laura assuming a termination based off of what’s happening at hospitals and other businesses highlighted in the media, or because the company has actually said “terminations will begin on X date”?
    I know you’re supposed to be training her on a portion of your job duties. That is impactful to you should she leave the company (of her own volition or not). This is something to bring up to your supervisor. “Laura had brought up a few times that she’s going to be fired for not vaccinating. I’m concerned about a break-through case, or passing it on to someone who isn’t able to be vaccinated, not to mention the time waste if I’m training her on X-Z duties just for her to leave. Can you advise me of how I should be handling this?” Let management deal with it.

  66. A Pinch of Salt*

    I do think the tie to “how can she know if something wrong with oursystem if she doesn’t see the benefit of vaccines” is wayyyy out there and counter productive if you do try to talk to her. Those kind of extreme comments are part of WHY anti-vaxxers think how they do and compare vaxxers to sheep.

    People make garbage decisions with their health and personal lives all the time and are still excellent employees.

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      This last sentence is completely true, unfortunately. One of my friends recently changed her entire career just so she didn’t have to get vaccinated. *eyeroll*

  67. MainelyProfessional*

    You do understand that…that wouldn’t happen if *even more* people were vaccinated, right?

  68. Bend & Snap*

    I recently had someone tell me they didn’t need to get vaccinated because of their natural immunity and God’s grace. There’s really no argument that will get through that wall of nonsense.

    1. Me*

      Insert the old Joke about God telling asking at the pearly gates why these people refused the boat he sent.

    2. Pennyworth*

      Well I might have natural immunity or be super equipped to repel Covid, or I might be highly susceptible. Not having any way of knowing, one way or another, it seems a no-brainer to get vaccinated.

  69. Paperback Writer*

    Removed — my apologies if it’s sincere but I have no way of fact-checking stuff like this and don’t want to host it if it’s not correct.

    1. Paperback Writer*

      Removed — unfortunately it just sounds too much like some of the anti-vaxxer propaganda people are trying to post here and I’d rather exclude the comment than risk hosting misinformation that could discourage someone from getting vaccinated. – Alison

  70. Jaybeetee*

    My lizard-brain response is along the lines of, “Whatever you say, say it with two fingers in the air.”

    But, uh, that’s probably a bad idea for a bunch of reasons. In real life, I’d probably just be like, “Yes.” *silence*.

    I’m very fortunate to live in a region where closing in on 90% of the eligible population is vaxxed, and my employer now requires it as well. I ain’t got time for this business.

  71. Budgie Buddy*

    Would be sooo tempted to say “Nope!” super nonchalantly every time she starts ranting and complaining. Worked for her when she wanted to shut down advice to get vaxxed.

    No point in stressing about preserving a good working relationship when the working relationship already sucks.

    1. allathian*

      And especially not if the coworker is more than likely going to be fired at the end of the year anyway.

  72. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I was skeptical about the vaccine when it was first announced, but my best friend has a severe condition that allowed him to really jump the line, and his wife and mother-in-law are doctors (a medical school or part thereof actually bears MiL’s last name). These women were among the very first to get vaccinated in their hotbed state! So when I saw that they were OK very early on this year, I became decidedly pro-vax. I’m so done with antis. I even refused to help someone in my LGBT community with food and pet items, because they are anti vaccine. Get fired. Starve. Whatever. I only felt bad for the pet.

    Individual freedom doesn’t work this way when you’re hurting people by choosing not to. It is like putting a piano in your apartment and thoughtlessly leaving it to hang on a thin rope directly above a sidewalk.

  73. Not playing your game anymore*

    A friend of mine was dealing with her brother who was on the antivax airway for a while. He’s her only relative and she worried about him. So after trying to convince him to get vaxed she started planning his funeral… So, he’d rage about the vaccine, and she’d ask if he wanted to be buried or cremated. He’d fuss about masks, she’d ask if he’d rather have a brass urn or a just to have his ashes scattered. “I could put your ashes in the cemetery where Mom and Dad are?” “If you can’t make your own decisions do you want a ventilator?” Do you have a will? Where do you keep it? Are you going to leave me your car? Might as well sell the Harley… It’s too bad [company] will fire you soon. I know you love that job… but you may be able to find something to see you thru, till … well never mind. He finally did cave and get vaxed. They have a good relationship and she knew how hard she could push, probably wouldn’t work with a co-worker.

    1. OAM*

      My brother is also against getting the COVID vaccine. But, through circumstances 100% of his own making, he ended up temporarily homeless and asked if he could stay with me for a couple of months until he sorts things out.

      I said yes and let him know that a condition of staying in my house is that he get fully vaccinated and that we wear masks at all times (except for eating and sleeping — at opposite ends of my house) until two weeks after his 2nd dose.

      I will finally get to be mask-free in my own home on Friday the 29th.

  74. Cat Lady Librarian*

    “I sense you are digging for sympathy, Lara. Let me save you some time: this well is dry.”

    1. The Smiling Pug*

      Love this line. I’m going to use it in your future conversations, if you don’t mind. :)

  75. Susie*

    I work in a science adjacent field. One of our unvaccinated coworkers died in the hospital Friday from COVID. She leaves behind a husband and son who just started high school. We still have coworkers who believe conspiracy theories about the vaccine and I have to walk away so I don’t scream at them.

  76. Berkeleyfarm*

    Honestly it sounds like the OP is nice/wants to maintain a professional relationship so has been sort of “letting” Lara rant.

    Alison’s and some other suggestions for polite “no more, let’s get back to work” verbiage are good. Lara needs to do her processing another way.

    OP definitely needs to talk with their upstream management about the task-training/handover.

    1. Momma Bear*

      The policy has been announced. Any deviation from that needs to be discussed with the powers that be/HR, which she is welcome to do. When I have coworkers who whine about indoor mask mandates or vaccinations, I try to steer them back to work related things. Or I remind them that smokers take breaks, so maybe they should go for a walk around the property to get a mask break. I’d tell this coworker of yours, OP, that everyone has a choice and she’s welcome to hers, but we need to focus on the Teapot Repainting Project. If she gets no audience, she might just stop.

      We have been put on notice that our contract renewals may hinge on vaccinated staff. They haven’t yet said anyone would lose their job, but you might be removed from a contract and if there’s nowhere else for you to go, stands to reason you might get laid off.

      1. Berkeleyfarm*

        Yeah, that’s the thing. OP is her audience. OP should get out of that business.

        The teapot technicians at my employer go to homes and businesses to do their teapot magic. We (IT) got an emergency (like, late Friday afternoon with WHY HAVEN’T YOU DONE THIS YET on Monday) ticket to update our ERP which runs our scheduling and dispatch to add vax status because enough of our customers were insisting on vaxxed techs. Enough of that and the unvaxxed ones might get let go.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Cool! Hopefully that news gets to the contractor who’s rescheduled me 3 times already because they keep forgetting to assign a vaccinated tech… and is about to lose my business after 18 years if they can’t get my XYZ work done soon

  77. Koa*

    You do not have to be subjected to Lara’s whining; however, you also cannot take on changing the mind of anyone who disagrees with you….about anything really, especially in a place of business. And the way Lara performs her job is completely separate from her choice to vaccinate, it is ridiculous to suggest that someone who makes a choice I deem to be not the wisest or best for their health can’t perform their job. The best Director on my team is not vaccinated and that has zero bearing on his ability to do his job well. OP works for a Company mandating the vaccine so she needs to let this go and not worry about wasting her breath.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Depends a lot of whether that job can be done while staying away from other employees. Otherwise it absolutely has a bearing.

    2. Worldwalker*

      It’s not about “the wisest or best for their health” — that’s their problem. It’s that they’re being Typhoid Marys for all the rest of us. For the people too young to be vaccinated. For the people too old for it to work. For the people who are immunocompromised, the cancer patients, the transplant recipients. For the love of your neighbor.

      Anti-vaxxers killed Colin Powell.

  78. Wesley Smasher*

    “The fact that she refuses to get vaccinated is making me doubt her ability to do her job. If Lara can’t recognize something as obvious as vaccines save lives, how can she recognize if something is off in our system?”


    I don’t care any more that these people are being targeted by political hucksters. At some point they have to take responsibility for their own stupidity and ignorance. If that means being fired, shunned, ignored or whatever, so be it. It should no longer be socially acceptable to be anti-vax.

  79. Sharpieees*

    No one is forcing anyone to get a vaccine. If you choose not to get it, you choose the consequences that go along with it. Work remotely, homeschool your kids, do your shopping online. Actions……meet consequences. No one has the right to be a modern-day Typhoid Mary and spread disease under the guise of “freedom”.

  80. John Smith*

    When I was a student nurse, I was asked to set up an intravenous drip on a patient. I’d never done it before, nor been trained or demonstrated setting one up, and my requests for supervision were ignored. Anyway, I set it up as best I could, but before I set the drip going, my Spider Sense told me there was something amiss so I sought out my trainer nurse who informed me that if I had started the drip, I would have killed the patient by giving them an embolism by not flushing air out of the drip line before putting it in the patient. A really stupid thing to do, but I wasn’t trained.

    I left nursing because of that, and took with me a severe phobia of needles – or rather, injections – fearing the same would happen to me where I to be given an injection of something where the air hadn’t been removed. That was over 20 years ago. I’ve pulled teeth out before now rather than face a dentist inject an anaesthetic into me.

    This year I had my Covid jabs. The very first time anyone ever has injected anything into me since adulthood. I was shaking at the time, pouring with sweat, and crying the days before with dread. But I did it. And I feel foolish for my phobia. I’m still scared, but I went for my second jab and will go for the booster jab we’re being offered.

    If I can do that, can I come and grab your employee by the scruff of her neck and hold her down while she gets jabbed? Pretty please?

    1. American Job Venter*

      This comment is courageous three times over — that you made someone tell you what you needed to know as a student nurse despite their negligence, that you faced your phobia and got this important immunization, and that you told us about both of these. Thank you for your bravery and for telling us this.

  81. joss*

    I will admit that I can be pretty blunt at times but, whenever someone whines to me about fear of losing their job for not wanting to get vaccinated (we too have a deadline coming up soon) my response lately has been “actions have consequences. Your choice, your consequence. Grow up and deal with it”
    As you can imagine there is no more whining after that as they did not find a willing ear to listen to their complaints. I am just done with this nonsense

  82. Ampersand*

    I am apparently in the minority here, as I am still unvaccinated. The thought of it fills me with anxiety so strong it gives me a physical reaction. I understand all the rational arguments, I don’t believe any of the conspiracy theories, but I am paralyzed by the constant stream of noise from both sides. I can’t escape it. They even talk about Covid on the new season of Brooklyn 99! We are all dealing with this trauma in our own ways. Maybe Jane isn’t crazy, maybe she is (more anxiety! I don’t know!) but either way she is undoubtedly dealing with trauma from the last year and a half and this probably feels more traumatic to her. If you are able to extend grace, and a kind word of encouragement I think it’s always worth it. Personally, I will probably get a vaccine eventually, but right now I’m just not ready.

    1. Dino*

      I have a needle phobia so bad I’ve taken swings at phlebotomists and my mom gave up vaccinating me at age 12 because I’d fight. The COVID vaccine was the first one I’ve received since then. The only way I could do it was with a RX for two Ativan pills. But it was done. A friend drove me and held my hand both times.

      If anxiety is what’s stopping you, talk to your doctor. Make a plan with a friend. You can do this. It’s scary as hell, but once it’s over?? The RELIEF is worth it. I don’t freak out going to the grocery store anymore, knowing I have some protection. I don’t hold me breath passing elderly neighbors in the hallway, hoping I’m not breathing death onto them. It feels so good.

      Lots of love your way.

      1. Marcia*

        To add, I did not realize how heavy the burden of anxiety truly was until I had the first shot. It felt like being released from a cage.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      One of the things I learned in the last few years is, you don’t have to watch the news. You don’t have to watch, or read, serious dramas–several of my friends are reading a lot more romances, and a lot less other fiction, because they find romances calming.

      I figure what I actually need to keep an eye on in anything like real time is the weather (which I do via Weather Underground, and the National Weather Service is good and ad-free), and transit/travel information if I’m going somewhere. If you do need or want to follow the news, unplug from the 24-hour news cycle: once a day, or less, is enough for most purposes. Election results matter; who’s ahead in the polls today doesn’t.

    3. SnappinTerrapin*

      I have an aversion to needles, so I sympathize with your anxiety. I had a semi-rational concern about flu shots, but had my first one last year while working at a hospital.

      I contracted covid while working in the hospital. The vaccines were still under development at the time. Four months later, I was among the first to be vaccinated.

      My adult children have expressed concerns about the vaccines. I reminded them that the highly publicized (but rare) side-effects are also symptoms that even more frequently accompany the disease, and generally with worse consequences.

      Several family members contracted covid while putting off the decision about vaccination, but fortunately, all of these survived. I have lost a couple of relatives, and some acquaintances, to covid.

      My youngest son contracted covid after receiving the first dose of vaccine this fall. He recovered, and notified me today he has received his second dose.

      Several family members and I had moderately severe cases. For what it’s worth, I’ll do everything I reasonably can to reduce the risk of catching it again, especially since my job necessarily exposes me to a lot of people every day.

      Whatever plan you need to make to overcome your anxiety, I encourage you to do so. I don’t want you to be as sick as I was last summer.

    4. Longtime Lurker*

      Ampersand, There are plenty of people reading here who are not vaccinated, for a variety of reasons. You are not alone.

    5. Sarah*

      Anxiety isn’t a good reason not to get it! I faced my anxiety and it was definitely a relief to get it in the end. I eventually realize my anxiety about covid itself was worse than for the vaccine. I would think your anxiety would be waaaaay worse if you were struggling to breathe, or woke up with a tube down your throat. There can be very real anxiety and trauma associated with icu stays. And if your anxiety is giving you physical symptoms (a feeling I’m very familiar with), what about all of the physical symptoms from covid itself?? Please get help for the anxiety!

    6. Stitch*

      To be until, if you don’t like needles, you really won’t like catching COVID. My in laws all caught COVID before there was a vaccine (my MIL is a teacher, my sis in law a social worker so they both could have caught it at work). My mother in law was sick for two weeks. My father in law was in the ICU for 2 weeks. He has permanent lung and kidney damage, potentially dialysis in the next year. My sis in law, a healthy young woman before COVID, developed chronic blinding headaches and they actually had to do a spinal tap on her to investigate. Big ol’ needle in her spine.

      The small prick of the vaccine is nothing compared to it.

      They all got the vaccine and just got their boosters.

    7. pancakes*

      Why not seek treatment for anxiety? By your own description the anxiety you experience is overwhelming. There are various ways of treating it, including medication. If your plan is to just wait for it to go away on its own, you may be waiting for the rest of your life. Not seeking treatment for it is like not seeking treatment for a broken bone. It needs medical attention, not waiting out.

  83. Just @ me next time*

    I think it depends on whether Lara is an anti-vaxxer or just “vaccine hesitant”. Someone who is truly anti-vax (sharing misinformation and conspiracy theories, attending protests, etc.) will probably just dig their heels in and respond with anger and vitriol if you try to argue with them. But a vaccine hesitant person (scared, confused or ill-informed about vaccinations) could potentially change their mind in the face of compelling evidence from a source they trust.

    It sounds to me like Lara is probably more on the anti-vaxxer side of things. But if LW has any reason to believe Lara is simply vaccine hesitant, LW could try sharing unbiased sources of information or encouraging Lara to speak to her doctor.

    That being said, it isn’t LW’s responsibility to convert Lara, and LW would be completely within their rights to refuse to engage with Lara on the topic.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      At this point, I think that the only thing that is going to move people is consequences. I think refusing to engage on topics other than work, making it clear that you have no sympathy, and that you do not want to be physically near her is the thing mostly likely to push her out of the bubble. Or it will make her go somewhere else. Either way is a win.

      1. Just @ me next time*

        There was a story in a community near mine about a vaccine-hesitant man who ultimately died of COVID after several days in the ICU. He was a husband and father in his forties. He did have asthma, I believe, but was otherwise healthy. Apparently the news coverage of his death and the effect on his family was enough to encourage several vaccine-hesitant folks in the community to finally get their shots.

    2. Windchime*

      I don’t like needles; nobody likes needles. But I’m a grownup so I get my shots. And for those who are hesitant–think about struggling to breathe and being panicked and scared and prepping to have instruments inserted into your throat so you can get oxygen. There are so, so many examples of people who are in the ICU and are terrified of dying and wishing they had gotten vaccinated. I hope those who are hesitant will go ahead and get vaccinated; take a friend and go to a trusted doctor or pharmacist and do it. It will be worth it.

  84. AnonInCanada*

    How much more cray-cray are we going to get today, Alison? Between the head-stuck-up-their-ass boss who can’t believe the new employee can’t survive without being paid for two months and now this? Wake me up when both Lara and clueless boss get smacked with a dose of reality.

    1. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      Vaccines aren’t 100 percent protection. And OP shouldn’t have to listen to Lara whine all the time. Lara can choose not to get the vaccine and lose her job, but that doesn’t mean that OP needs to be her sounding board.

    2. BookishMiss*

      Vaccinated and currently recovering from covid because i was exposed by someone who was unvaccinated. It wasn’t severe enough for hospitalization, yes i survived, but breakthroughs are still AWFUL.

    3. Properlike*

      Nope. Protection is not 100% even three weeks after your second shot, and depends on the manufacturer. This is why Pfizer has been recommending boosters, because of waning immunity over time.

      Unvaccinated people are *everyone’s* problem. It’s why I continue to double-mask inside any public place. Until all the under-12s have a chance to be vaccinated, I assume I could be a carrier even without symptoms.

    4. turquoisecow*

      My kid isn’t. So if I bring Covid home and give it to my kid I may not even feel it, but she will. And I’m sorry but I’m not putting my baby at risk because Lara doesn’t want to get a needle poke.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      As long as the virus is circulating, and people are getting sick, that’s a burden on hospitals and medical staff. Even if this vaccine protected me 100%, doctors who are treating covid patients aren’t performing elective surgery. Elective doesn’t mean the surgery isn’t necessary, it means that they can decide to do it in December instead of October.

      That means people waiting for cataract surgery, for cancer treatment, for hip replacements…

      1. Stitch*

        My Dad’s one of them. He’s fully vaxxed but had to have a treatment for something that isn’t cancer but could become cancer pushed because the hospital wasn’t doing non emergency procedures.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Wrong, unfortunately.

      Every unvaccinated host is a potential reservoir of mutation. The risk of a far worse variant arising is higher in an unvaccinated population because the virus has greater opportunity to grow and mutate for longer.

      Thus the risk of getting a mutation that won’t be stopped by the current vaccines increases. A more infectious, more deadly and more vaccine resistant variant is exactly what we don’t need.

      Having said all that (I used to work in virology) I admit I have no time for antivaxx people anymore. Don’t want to get it despite all this nearly 2 year hell? Fine, stay away from contact with others. Including me.

    7. anonarama*

      My toddler can’t get vaccinated because toddler. My grandpa is old and I’ve gone from seeing him every month pre-pandemic to twice in 18 months. My partner works with nurses who work directly with COVID patients. The unvaccinated are everyone’s problem.

  85. 653-CXK*

    Having spent 17 days in the hospital with cellulitis and hospital-acquired COVID (after being vaccinated twice), I have no time for the anti-vax crowd. I would not hesitate to tell these folks the medical roller coaster I went on – kidney problems, loss of smell (but not taste), fluid gain (18 pounds), high pulse rate and atrial flutter (you know it’s serious when the nurses excitedly run in at midnight and squeal with delight that you went into spontaneous sinus rhythm), diarrhea, urinary problems, and the constant chills, sweats and violent coughing.

    I am recovering very well and feel much, much better. The top of my right foot is still swollen due to all of the saline they pumped into me, I still have an occasional coughing fit (usually resolved by drinking water), but all in all I’m on the road to recovery.

    I didn’t believe that COVID wasn’t that bad in the early stages (back in March 2020), but now I’m a firm believer that COVID is very much real, and the vaccines I got made COVID relatively easier to manage (despite all of the other things that happened to me). If I had not been vaccinated, the symptoms would have been far worse.

      1. 653-CXK*

        Thank you both! I had a couple of cups of tea (just some Earl Grey) and the coughing seems to have gone away – last night was the first night I didn’t have a coughing fit.

  86. LKW*

    Every time I imagine having a conversation with an anti-vaxxer, I end up smacking them. I don’t feel I have powers of persuasion.

    That said, I wonder if your coworker has effectively buried her head in the sand about how COVID can impact a person. I’m not recommending this as a starting point but on Reddit – the Hermain Cain Awards subreddit is filled with people who spent most of 2020 and 2021 posting anti vaxx memes. Once they get the ‘rona they or their families give these exhausting and detailed medical updates and every thing that comes along with it: Scarred lungs, blood clots, sepsis, brain inflammation. These are the unvaccinated.

    Some people who have been reading these have posted their vaccination cards showing how they overcame their hesitancy after learning what Delta is really like.

  87. handfulofbees*

    So about half my coworkers are extremely antivax (think lefty anti-big-pharma type), and I’ve really had to figure out how to work through this. I cannot debate it every time it comes up, because that’s extremely exhausting for me. My coworkers are also wonderful people and I do not wish to burn bridges with them.

    My policy has been: I talk honestly and casually about vaccines (noting that oh yeah, I got the flu shot over the weekend), and answer any questions I get as to why I personally get vaccinated. I’ve found there’s definitely a more respectful listening involved if I’m talking about my personal beliefs and reasons, and not if I’m quoting statistics or talking about public health (because they read psuedoscience stuff that’s skeptical of mainstream agencies and data). Talking about getting a flu vaccine because of my mother’s horrible experiences with the flu goes a lot further then giving vaccine safety numbers.

  88. Mystic*

    I’ll play devil’s advocate here. I’ve a family member who, every time they got a regular flu vaccine, they lost feeling in their arms for days. They’ve decided against the COVID Vaccine Because of it. It’s possible that Lara might have a reaction to the vaccine. And my mom couldn’t get it because of other medical issues she had and the drs thought it’d make it worse. It’s possible that might be happening to Lara. Although she shouldn’t be saying stuff willy nilly or complaining.

    For the record, I’m for everyone vaccinating.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Most employers have an exemption for medical reasons – I know mine does. If there were an adverse effect that prevented vaccination, Lara would not be fired, she’d merely have to submit whatever medical exemption documentation was required.

    2. Worldwalker*

      If I knew for a fact that I’d lose the feeling in my arm for days … I still would have lined up for my jab as soon as I could. Leaving out all the death and dying bit … lose feeling in one arm for days, or lose my sense of smell for years if not lifelong? Even *that* isn’t something I’d want to risk, let alone, y’know, being more likely to die.

    3. James*

      The Covid vaccine works differently, though. There’s no reason to suspect they’ll lose feeling in their arm. Unless it’s something to do with the needle, in which case they really need to talk to their doctor immediately. It could be a sign of a serious medical condition.

      I got one of the worse reactions in the “common reaction” category–the Covid vaccine triggered an inflammatory response and thus a migraine which incapacitated me for most of a day. My daughter gets migraines as well (the normal ones and ocular migraines so far). She’s still getting the shot when it becomes available. A bad day is far better than a pine box.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t get a migraine. (Practically no reaction, in fact) I get migraines for no good reason anyway.

    4. Aitch Arr*

      My mother is allergic to all seafood and chicken. She also has asthma and a reactive airway. She is in her late 70s.

      With her doctor’s blessing and some extra precautions*, she got the vax as soon as she was eligible.

      The extra precautions: waiting 30 minutes onsite after the shot instead of 15; getting the shot done in a location with an ambulance onsite and within a few miles of a hospital in case she had a reaction; having my father go with her and not on the same day he had his shot.

    5. The Price is Wrong Bob*

      People with legitimate medical exemptions are not the ones complaining loudly at work because they would want as many people as possible to get vaccinated for their own protection. Lara is 100% just a regular ol’ selfish jerk.

  89. Free Meerkats*

    So far around here with employers that have mandates, data has shown that about 20-30% of people say they’ll get fired instead of getting vaccinated. Once the time to fish or cut bait comes though, less than 5% actually don’t get the shot and get fired.

    So the odds are that she’ll end up being vaccinated and stay employed. Then your struggle will be to not gloat.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yes, they had that happen – in the city of Boston – out of 40,00+ muni employees, they cried “Union! Our rights are being violated! Medical freedom! Civil Rights!” yada yada yada

      But when they did a check on Friday – 96% had taken the vaccine. Ditto the State Police, they were yelping “there’s gonna be a disaster! You wait and see! You’ll be SORRY!” and only ONE trooper quit over this – but he was of retirement age… so… uh….

      Finally, my cousin’s wife – in Missouri – where anti-vaxxers are proud – and, of course, the hospitals were jammed – she is a nurse. She didn’t want to be vaccinated, her rights, her body, etc. but eventually changed her mind. “I did further research”.

      Plus she was gonna be fired if she didn’t.

      1. Midwestern Scientist*

        Fellow Missourian – local hospital had similar results. I don’t remember the exact numbers but when surveyed something like 100+ staff said they would quit/be fired rather than get vaccinated. When the drop dead date for the mandate hit, less than a dozen actually did. Push comes to shove, most people will get it to keep their job.

      2. Epiphyta*

        In Washington state – out of 63,000 state employees, about 1900 quit, retired or were dismissed as of Tuesday morning, including the state’s highest paid employee, the football coach at Washington State University. Who announced this morning that he’s suing for unlawful dismissal. *rolls eyes*

      3. The Price is Wrong Bob*

        Yeah she further researched….that there were no jobs waiting for antivax nurses and then she researched her cost of living…

  90. DD*

    You have my sympathies for having to deal with Lara and her idiocy. In the beginning I had more patience and understanding dealing with people like her but COVID fatigue has used up all my f**ks to give with people like her.

    Now that my rant is over, next time she starts on how she’s going to lose her job, it’s not fair, yadda yadda yadda, can you say something like….”How are you coming with the documentation and training plan for your vaxxed replacement? Is there anything I can do to help get anything together?”

  91. Macaroni Penguine*

    There’s also the option of not having the conversation with Laura at all.* If she’s venting, you could say “That sounds tough. Maybe your family doctor has some good advice.” or “I’m at capacity for COVID talk today/this week/forever. Lets focus on this chocolate teapot order.” In my opinion, Alison has some good points on shutting down the conversation with Laura.

    *I’m also dealing with a coworker who won’t get vaccinated. He’s given me Tinfoil Hat Nonsensical Conspiracy Level Reasons for why he’s not interested in immunization. So, I’ve totally checked out of trying to speak with him logically on the issue. My go to phrase is “Bob, we’ve been through this already. I’m not going to talk about COVID-19 with you.” And if necessary, I walk out of the room for a bit of time until he understands the level of my disinterest.

  92. Feral Fairy*

    The best advice I’ve seen on this thread is to just say “I am not the right person to discuss this with, maybe go to HR.” How’s your relationship with your supervisor? Or are there any people in HR you have a good relationship with? Maybe they could be a resource on dealing with her.

    I feel like there could be several things motivating Lara to keep bringing this up. Maybe she wants you to sympathize and say “Oh noo, we can’t lose you!” Or maybe she is someone who likes to get a reaction from people. There are plenty of right wingers/anti vaxxers who make inflammatory comments on news articles on facebook because they like getting a rise out of people or arguing.

    While ideally someone could convince her to get vaccinated, it sounds like the company policy will deal with that issue by firing her if she doesn’t. In the mean time, if you want to get her to stop bringing this up constantly, just be as unsatisfying to talk to about this as possible. You can even not respond all together.

    I’d be so tempted to say something like “I think it would be a shame if you chose to lose your job over the vaccination policy. I an getting tired of hearing
    you talk about the policy. If remaining unvaccinated is the choice that you want to make, the consequence is that you will no longer work here. I understand that this is a difficult choice for you and I would be happy to try to answer questions that you have about the covid 19 vaccine. That being said, I am not going to entertain further conversations about the policy being unfair.” That might be too harsh though :/

  93. Esmeralda*

    “but while Lara is part of the problem, she’s not the root of it.”

    So what? That does not give Lara one iota of cover. I appreciate Alison’s nuanced and thoughtful analysis. But I disagree with the thrust of that paragraph. We are all responsible for our own judgments (unless we are children or force or coerced) and our own behavior. Lara has decided that her whatever-reason is more important than anyone else’s health and life. Unless she has a substantial reason not to be vaxxed, her refusal is profoundly unethical.

    Instigators (the “root”) are MORE responsible, but people like Lara don’t get a free pass. They are responsible too.

  94. cityMouse*

    My goodness, how I respect you, Alison. You see things so clearly; you cut through the crap, you call it like it is. There is no way to improve on what you have said, I just want to say, thank you. Thank you for this site, for the commentariat, for your experience and wisdom.

  95. Charlie*

    There is a whole field of research into human behaviour change that is really interesting to read about. The conclusion is largely that it is very difficult to change people’s behaviour! Usually if you criticise someone, they only become defensive and further entrenched in their viewpoint. People are influenced by knowing that others are doing the thing – this is difficult when Lara is surrounded by people who are refusing to get vaccinated, but you might be able to just mention that most people at work have decided to take the vaccine, as it might help her see it as a normal thing to do. Empathising with people’s concerns can also help, so asking about her reasoning might be a way to open up a conversation where you can gently address her reluctance. Here in the UK most of the messaging about covid has been along these kinds of lines, for example, “most people are following the lockdown rules,” “this celebrity got the vaccine,” “get the vaccine to protect your elderly relatives.” This kind of messaging is more powerful than “you’re an irresponsible idiot if you don’t get the vaccine.”

    But it’s a fine line to walk, especially with a colleague, and ultimately it isn’t your responsibility to intervene unless you want to. The positive here is that your employer is ensuring your safety by making sure that everyone in the office is vaccinated.

  96. AnonymousForThis*

    I work in administration for a “congregate care facility.” About 45% of staff who work directly with residents are currently vaccinated.

    Yes, you read that correctly.

    We’re not mandating vaccines or testing, and leadership have announced they have no intention to do so until the government makes us….because we’re already short-staffed (as is everyone in the industry, the job doesn’t pay well and it kind of sucks), and they’re afraid staff will leave for our competitors if we do. Our local competitors are doing the same thing. Apparently it hasn’t occurred to the bean counters that staff constantly being out for two weeks because they need to quarantine (assuming they’re actually reporting exposures) or being out sick when they catch COVID doesn’t help the staffing crisis either…

    1. AnonymousForThis*

      Luckily, the vast majority of our residents are vaccinated. But I don’t know how to deal with the anger I’m feeling towards the staff who are refusing. Something like a quarter of our residents contracted COVID before we started vaccinating people in January! We only ended up losing a handful of them, which is a minor miracle, but ARGH I just can’t with these people.

    2. LibraryLady*

      I work for a school district, quite a large one at that. I’m honestly surprised that there hasn’t been a mandate yet, but when you think about the fact that I live in a VERY red county, along with the severe teacher shortage, I’m not surprised. Too many people here are against it and we absolutely can’t lose anymore teachers than we already have.

  97. Paul Pearson*

    “she is going to get fired for not getting the shot”

    I suggest saying:
    Yes you are – don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

    Maybe not kind but ratlickers get on my very last nerve

  98. Amethystmoon*

    I think the general advice for avoiding controversial subjects at work should now be applied to vaccines, with the exception of those in managerial and HR roles where you have to enforce the policies, of course. It is sad that it has come to this point.

    1. anonarama*

      That’s how anti vax rhetoric wins. The reason anti vax rhetoric has reached this point is basically because everyone ignored anti vaxxers for like 20 years. But the anti-vaxxers certainly never shut up. So millions of people heard anti-vax logic but never actual logic because pro-vaccine people (the majority of people!) were like “this is so obvious who could believe those lunatics” and never countered the bad information. Being silent simply normalized the views of the people talking. And again, the anti-vaxxers never shut up.

      1. Beth*

        YES. Silence favours the ugly opinions that cause harm. There’s a key difference between “having a controversial viewpoint” and “whining about clinging to an opinion that puts me in danger”.

        If I can’t persuade someone to open their mind, I need to ask them to close their mouth, at least around me. I have no reason to sacrifice my mental health on their behalf — especially since they aren’t willing to give up anything for my behalf, or even for my health and life.

    2. Dezzi*

      Except that “controversial subject” is whether or not someone in my office is refusing to take precautions against something that has killed 700,000+ people. I absolutely want to know who in my building hasn’t gotten the vaccine, because I can’t trust them to keep me safe and that is important information for me to have.

  99. Beth*


    “How do we move forward when I have learned this devastating thing about who you are and your willingness to inflict harm on others?”

    This is the best summary I’ve ever seen on the core question — not just on dealing with anti-vaxxers, but with toxic family members, abusive partners, friends who turn out to be Crouching NiceGuy/Hidden Asshole, and, especially every time a beloved author or artist turns out to be a raging homophobe or racist or TERF or similar.

    1. Dezzi*

      This is what I struggle with so much. How do you maintain relationships with people who’ve just told you they’re perfectly happy to risk the lives of everyone around them? How do you go to work every day with coworkers who just don’t care whether they bring a serious, potentially lethal virus into the office (don’t @ me, that is absolutely what it means if you’re avoiding the vaccine for anything other than legitimate medical reasons)?

      I don’t know how to cope with the fact that 700,000+ people are dead, millions are newly-disabled, one in 500 children in this country have lost their primary caregiver…..and yet when people are offered a (completely free!) way to help stop this tragedy, they’re just going “nope!”

  100. Imaginary Number*

    My company just mandated vaccinations for everyone. As far as we can tell, they’re being very strict and thorough about requests for exemptions (e.g. they’re actually asking folks who say it’s because the vaccines with developed with fetal cells if they also refuse a long list of everyday medications that were also developed using fetal cells), leading to a small but very vocal group of folks who are adamant they won’t get the vaccine and are willing to lose their jobs. I think those folks envision some grand moment where the company completely crumbles from losing them. One of my coworkers especially, because he has a niche expertise, seems to think that way. And I’ll admit things will be hard without him. But this is a large company and the reality is that in the long run their absence will be a minor headache compares to the impact on their lives.

  101. Miss Coordinator*

    I have a colleague who was refusing to get vaccinated. The entire office contacted our boss and literally refused to work with her. When we were scheduled for in-office days, she was stuck working alone because no one wanted to work with her. When the place I work offered $500 for vaccinated employees, she sure as hell got the vaccines.

    (This woman is probably going to be someone I write in for advice about. So many issues with this one and she gets coddled to hell typically.)

    1. Sabrina Spellman*

      This is what my boss said to my coworker too. I just had to tell my coworkers today that once she’s in the office, I will not enter any space where she is. She’s pretty technologically inept, so I’m sure that’s going to work out well for everyone when something needs to be done.

  102. KMM*

    Actually it’s reasonable that Lara does not need to provide her rationale for her private medical decision. ‘No’ is a complete sentence. You are not owed an explanation nor is it your responsibility to convince someone that their personal choice is wrong. More so , it’s reasonable to expect that your existing employer should not be able to erroneously change the terms of your employment to mandate a medical intervention or face termination – especially when there are reasonable alternatives (ie. work from home). We’re so focused on ‘getting back to normal’ that we are willing to trade in our fundamental freedoms and the right to choose to get there.

    1. joss*

      Wish to expand on the “erroneously change the terms of your employment”? Specifically the erroneous part is what I am asking about?

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      An employer absolutely has the right to mandate a vaccine or face losing a job!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        We. Are. In. A. Deadly. Pandemic.

        If there is an actual medical reason for not getting the vaccine (and I have someone on staff who truly can’t) them every available effort should be made to keep them safe – which is vaccinating everyone else.

        This extends outside the workplace too!

    3. Dezzi*

      Yeah, no, your employer *absolutely* has the right to tell you “you are not allowed to risk killing your coworkers or their families,” and fire you if you refuse. Sorry, but we live in a society.

    4. James*

      “Actually it’s reasonable that Lara does not need to provide her rationale for her private medical decision.”

      Agreed. However, this does not absolve Lara of the responsibility to face the consequences of her actions.

      This isn’t unique to Covid-19. I have had jobs that required vaccinations. My options were 1) get vaccinated, or 2) don’t do that job. It’s a normal thing in my line of work–we get vaccinated, we get blood tests, we get hearing tests, we wear PPE, we go through training, or we get fired because we can’t safely complete our assigned tasks.

      “More so , it’s reasonable to expect that your existing employer should not be able to erroneously change the terms of your employment to mandate a medical intervention or face termination – especially when there are reasonable alternatives (ie. work from home).”

      (I’m going to ignore the word “erroneously” because everything in medicine says you’re factually wrong there.)

      That’s where you’re wrong. It is perfectly reasonable–under OSHA it’s actually a requirement–for the company to revise their policies and procedures to ensure a safe and healthful work environment. As a safety officer I’ve done this a thousand times. I did this yesterday, in fact. Adding a new vaccine to the list of requirements isn’t as unusual as you make it appear. It’s not super common, sure, but it’s not unheard of, and as I said above the options routinely offered are “Do it or find a new job.”

      Basically, you’re seeing a small window into the world many of us live in day-in, day-out. The things people are complaining about–masks, vaccines, distancing, all of it–are routine in my line of work. So much so that we had already implemented, as standard procedures, every one of the CDC guidelines before the CDC provided them (with the sole exception of requiring masks at all times, which never made any sense; we required them where there was a potential to catch the disease). It’s why we were able to keep working. For you this is an unreasonable and unexpected burden that you’ve never encountered before. For folks like me, it’s actually a pretty lax safety program to follow. My day-to-day life is much, much, MUCH more rigid. When I gave the safety briefing to the new guys yesterday it took two hours.

      You are of course correct that Lara has an alternative, but you’re wrong about what that alternative is. Unless she’s got a multi-year contract with the company they’re allowed to fire her for refusing to comply with reasonable changes to her assigned task, including reasonable changes to safety requirements. By the same token, Lara’s allowed to negotiate changes in compensation and quit tomorrow if the company refuses. The alternative Lara has is to either comply with the company’s revised protocols, or find a new company that has terms and conditions she can accept. That’s the other side of the coin to at-will employment: BOTH parties need to agree to continue working together, including through changing conditions. Any other view is “Liberty for me, but not for thee” of some flavor.

      Honestly, I get where you’re coming from. I dislike the idea of government-mandated vaccines. That said, this is an emergency, and it’s NOT a sacrifice of our fundamental freedoms for the government to do whatever it takes to end the emergency. That’s how emergencies work, and the proper role of the government in an emergency. The question is whether they retain this power after the emergency ends. Further, a century of experience has shown that companies do in fact have a moral requirement to care for the health and wellbeing of their employees, including mandatory vaccinations. It’s been found that this is better for everyone, including the employees and the company’s bottom line. If you’re unfamiliar with this research, I will respectfully point out that this is an indication you don’t know this topic as well as you think you do.

  103. LibraryLady*

    I hesitate to say this, because I know it’s unpopular, but I was definitely riding the anti-Covid vaxx train for a while. It was too new, I didn’t feel like I was high risk, I was an avid mask wearer, etc. I’ve still never had Covid, nor has anyone in my household (although I have been exposed several times and I know plenty of people who have). TBH, it took me really opening up my mind and asking the hard questions of myself to realize I wanted to get the shot. It wasn’t anything that anyone said or did. I will say this though, before I got the vaccine I was accosted by people who were mad I had not. Their attitudes/feelings only fueled my fire. It DID NOT help. There were other people who were asking genuine questions and wanted to talk/listen and those conversations helped. While I’m fully vaxxed now (as is my husband, my 12 y.o. is waiting to get her second shot, my 10 y.o. will get it as soon as it becomes available), I can honestly say I needed to come to the conclusion on my own. The right answer here is education and compassion. You can’t bully someone into it. Being on both sides, I totally understand OP (and everyone else’s feelings) but I also understand that pushing people into anything isn’t the way. I feel like more people might be vaxxed if attitudes were different. On the other hand, I get that is hard when people’s health is at risk. I hope this makes sense and doesn’t offend anyone.

    1. Dream Jobbed*

      Totally get this – having something injected into your body that you are uncertain of is scary. And my libertarian side rebels against the “get the shot or lose your job” mentality. So I am sympathetic to those not wanting the shot for some valid reasons. But also…. people are dying. And they are dying because they are not getting the shot. And if they don’t die they are still far more dangerous to those who can’t get the shot. So I get the mandates too. Basically it all sucks, and there are no easy answers.

    2. not your typical admin*

      Yes to all of this!!!!!! My husband and I did the Moderna trial. People thought we were crazy for doing it. We’ve also both had our boosters. However, he was very hesitant to have our teens vaccinated when it first became available. He felt like their risk of exposure, and getting severely ill was very low, while the risk of a side effect from the vaccine was higher for them than for us, specifically myocarditis. Once delta hit and cases began going up, I gave him more data and research and we agreed (with their consent) to to get them vaccinated. Education without shaming is the key.

    3. James*

      It’s basic psychology: If you want to convince someone to do something, saying “Do this or you’re a horrible person” isn’t going to work. When attacked people tend to dig in their heals and do what they’re doing harder, rather than being convinced to do what they’re told to do.

      I mean, think about it–have you ever succeeded in changing someone’s mind by saying “Do what I say or you’re a horrible person and deserve to die”?

      I don’t think the “…could Lara just please catch COVID and drop dead” comments are about changing minds. They’re about venting. Which is fine–it’s a necessity under stressful situations–but there are limits. I’d say when you’re fantasizing about the horrible deaths of people you don’t know because they disagree with you, you’ve gone too far. I firmly believe that the energy you send out into the universe comes back to you; fantasizing about horrible deaths isn’t exactly good energy to send out!!!

      The reality is that it was perfectly justified for people to be hesitant about the vaccine in the beginning. It’s a new technology, and early adopters face the risks associated with such things as well as the rewards. And we know how Covid works now. It’s reasonable to say that the odds of severe reactions to Covid are acceptably low for you. I don’t think it’s correct, but it’s not an unreasonable stance. This is something people can talk about.

      The other reality is, this is terrifying. EVERYONE is scared. And there are no good options. Every option is going to result in people dying. That’s not something we as a civilization are capable of processing at this point. Our view for the past several hundred years has been that we can find solutions to the problems facing us, and this pandemic is presenting a problem without a solution that fits our typical definition of “good”. We should expect people to react in a variety of ways, including rejecting the solutions we identify, because this whole thing strikes at the heart of our world-view.

  104. Sabrina Spellman*

    The only person on my team who hasn’t been vaccinated is 70+. I have a child who is too young to be vaccinated, so I’ve made it clear to her (with my boss’s support) that I cannot be around her if she isn’t vaccinated. I would think she’d want the shot to protect herself, but who knows.

  105. Padme*

    Lara’s sentiment doesn’t represent all people who don’t want to get vaccinated. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is a good motto to follow.

    Considering there are a not insignificant number Navy SEALS, firefighters, police officers, nurses & truckers (you know – those people that had to go to work in the beginning of the pandemic) giving up their jobs over being vaccinated, maybe we should listen to what they have to say?

    1. Former Hominid*

      Funny how when the day to actually lose your job or get jabbed comes around those “not-insignificant” number of nurses/cops etc turns out to be like .5% of folks. As a viral tweet went: “isn’t it horrible that all the teachers/nurses/cops/EMTs that don’t believe in science are getting fired?” I for one can’t wait to see all the union jobs opening up for more compassionate, more intelligent people than the former occupants of said jobs.

    2. The Price is Wrong Bob*

      We have listened to them for 18 months, often with their guns and tear gas aimed at us; we know by now just share the parrot opinion from fox news or oann (*not that they could enter the fox news building because they would need to be vaccinated for that). They are not acting in good faith and we can stop pretending the carrot will work better than the stick — mandates are proven to work with very low attrition rates. I will listen to my colleagues who have studied viruses and vaccines at a postgraduate level over a people who get tested to make sure they are not too intelligent for the job (aka cops). No one is forcing them to get a vaccine if they are not in the military, they are welcome to stop taking taxpayer-funded salaries and go work at their church or for whoever told them not to get a vaccine on facebook. And if they’re in the military, they know full well they signed their body over to the government and it’ll be hard to argue all the other vaccines they already took are different in the disciplinary process. In NYC people are lined up for a chance at those public service jobs, they rarely open up.

    3. American Job Venter*

      A quick look at history will show how many people are eager to throw away their lives for mistaken and horrible causes.

    4. Kevin Sours*

      I’ve listened to what they’ve had to say. Because, frankly, these people are not quiet about it. The problem is that it’s lies all of the way down and they don’t want to hear the truth. I can’t change their mind, but I can make it clear that I have no time for it.

    5. pancakes*

      Absolutely not. We should continue to listen to scientists about science and virologists about the virus. Also, these categories of workers aren’t all on the same page as to why they’re refusing. It’s bizarre you seem think people will pretend not to have noticed that.

      Also bizarre, you seem to think people will get on board with the idea of cops, firefighters, and soldiers being excused from having to obey civil authority! (As a treat, for having to go to work during a pandemic? Why exclude grocery store workers too, then?) Whatever your personal justification is, it is absolutely fundamental to democracy that those categories of workers remain answerable to the public. We fund them and arm them. You are being much too flippant about the idea of reversing that relationship to put them in charge of the rest of us, and for such shoddy reasons. Yikes.

  106. Chickaletta*

    People have the freedom to make choices, but they are not free from the consequence of those choices. If they lose their jobs over a vaccine, a freakin’ vaccine, then that is the consequence of the choice they made. They may also lose friends and the respect of their coworkers. Those are also consequences.

    All I know is we’ve been in this for months, and if some idiot hasn’t figured out that the covid vaccine is safe by now then they probably never will.

  107. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    Unless it’s a legitimate medical exemption (corroborated by a doctor, not just some random “I get the flu from the flu vaccine” junk), Lara doesn’t deserve to have a job at any company. Not only should you be shutting down her comments as the utter and dangerous nonsense that they are, but you should be making sure to let management know about all of this (and go ahead and throw in any non-vaccine related issues with her work). She doesn’t deserve a job.

  108. Princesss Sparklepony*

    I’m wondering if LW should continue to train Lara to take over that portion of her work. If Lara won’t get vaxxed and is fired, LW is wasting time and energy to train her. If I were LW, I’d stop the training until Lara get vaxxed. LW will have to train Lara’s replacement. Why do it twice unless you want the practice.

    And tell Lara that you aren’t going to bother training her since she’s going to be gone soon. LW should let her manager know that you don’t want to waste your time on a lost case. Unless Lara wants to get vaxxed…

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