should I tell an employee that the new hire sitting right across from him all day is unvaccinated?

A reader writes:

The company I work for has weathered the pandemic okay. We’re a 100% in person, small U.S. manufacturing company. I’m HR, finance, many other things, and sometimes reception. Because of that, I’m in a unique position to know the vaccination status of all visitors (due to a Covid screening form they complete) and some details about health status for employees and their family members.

Until recently, all employees have been fully vaccinated (to the best of my knowledge). There is no “vaccines required” policy; any mention of that in the past has been shot down by management. It’s been hypothetical given everyone’s vaccination status, plus the owners aren’t keen on mandates. There is no longer a masking requirement at work, though people are free to wear them.

Recently we hired someone who is not Covid-vaccinated, according to their visitor info form. I shared that info with the person conducting the interview, now their direct manager, since he’d be meeting with him in the conference room. The new employee is working in a large, open manufacturing area and is almost always working at a bench on his own, so keeping distanced wasn’t a problem. However, work stations just got moved around. He’s now at a work station that directly faces the work station of someone who lives with a medically vulnerable family member, who is at risk of serious illness from even minor infections. When they are both at their work stations, they face each other, six feet apart.

Ethically, to me, the employee with the vulnerable family member needs to know they are working every day with someone who is unvaccinated, so that they can choose to mask up, change their work station placement, etc. But that would be disclosing medical info about a coworker, which normally I wouldn’t do. Though it shouldn’t figure into the decision about “the right thing to do,” complicating matters, the new guy’s role is one with some overlap of the existing employee’s role and the existing employee had their hackles up about the position even existing, felt threatened, and gave the new guy the cold shoulder for a couple of days.

As HR, and personally, I’m very cautious about Covid: still masking in public and avoiding crowds. At work I’m the person who reminds people about eye protection, safety gloves, etc. if I observe someone doing something that requires that. I’m lightly teased about about my focus on caution and safety. So though I’m willing to use my capital as needed to address this issue, I also suspect the owners and the manager involved might not share my level of concern over it (particularly given that they moved the one unvaccinated person to face — all day — the one person they know has an at-risk family member).

My initial impulse was to simply talk to the employee with the vulnerable family member, let him decide how he wants to proceed (by masking up, asking to move his work station, etc.). I could be vague about who, exactly, is not vaccinated … but he will likely see through that. Also, there may be other employees with similarly at-risk family members who I’m not aware of.

Any suggestions how I should proceed in this situation?


Morally, I’d argue that you should be able to tell the person with the at-risk family member that he’s facing an unvaxxed person all day long so he can take additional precautions if he wants to (like masking if he’s not been doing that).

But legally, you can’t share employees’ confidential medical info, which the EEOC says includes vaccination status.

Ideally, everyone in your workplace would assume that they don’t know other people’s vax status and just take whatever precautions they’d take if they knew for sure that someone was unvaxxed. And really, this is what everyone should be doing in situations where they don’t know the people around them very well. For some people, that won’t mean changing anything — they’ve decided being vaccinated themselves is enough. For other people, it will mean masking and/or other precautions.

However, if in the past your employees were told everyone there was vaccinated, you’ve got people operating with out-of-date information. Given that, it makes sense to remind everyone that the company doesn’t require vaccination and doesn’t share people’s vaccination status, and so if they are concerned about protecting themselves or high-risk family members, the company supports them in taking safety precautions like masking and adding more distance between work stations.

You could also ask the employee with the vulnerable family member if he’d prefer a work station with more distance around it — as a general safety precaution, not one specific to the person he’s near right now. If he’s not masking all day, that’s a good idea anyway since vaccination — while highly effective at preventing serious disease and death — doesn’t fully prevent infection, so his family member’s risk isn’t just from the unvaccinated new guy. In fact, this is worth offering to all employees if you can since, as you note, you don’t know who else might have at-risk loved ones they’d like to protect (or be at risk themselves).

{ 253 comments… read them below }

  1. bamcheeks*

    Is there evidence that covid vaccination substantially reduces the chances of catching and passing on covid? We have pretty high vaccination rates in the UK, and also high rates of covid. My (very much layperson’s!) assumption was the vaccination had a god track record in protecting an individual from serious symptoms but didn’t do an awful lot to prevent infection or transmission.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, although it varies depending on the variant:

      I’m going to close this subthread so as not to attract misinformation (intentional or otherwise) but there’s lots out there on this that people can look up!

    2. ThatGirl*

      It does – we don’t know exactly how much and part of the problem is that the omicron strains were more evasive of the early vaccines. But there is a new bivalent booster out that everyone should get, and there is definitely evidence that it helps reduce omicron infection.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      A quick google search shows that there is some evidence that the vaccines do reduce transmission but I think there is not enough evidence yet.

      I really like Alison’s advice!

  2. Also HR*

    This is great advice. I know this is Ask A Manager, but damn it feels like Ask An HR person a lot lol. By focusing on the bigger picture, you can still get that employee good information they can use, since maybe they’ve let their guard down lately assuming everyone they work with is vaxxed. My office safety philosophy was formed working for an engineering services firm, and they were always thinking of ways to shock/remind people to stay vigilant in the field and in the office around ALL kinds of safety topics–kinda wonder what they’re doing now re: the pandemic.

    1. BubbleTea*

      A good manager and a good HR person both prioritise not breaking the law or being unethical, so it makes sense there would be overlap.

      1. Lauren*

        I think she doesn’t dance around it anymore though. Announce it as – Several months ago we announced an all employee vaccination rate, with inconsistent booster timings and new employees – this is no longer the case. Please update your boosters and mask accordingly with this new information.

    2. linger*

      OP in this case can definitely phrase it as a more general reminder to mask, etc if needed, without specifically targetting either of these employees, because even the vaccinated staff may not have been boosted within the past 6 months, which means they have almost no active immunity against the Omicron strains now circulating, and anyone at risk should still be taking other precautions.
      (PSA: Do get vaccinated, but also get regular boosters. Covid-2 immunity, whether from infection or vaccination, wanes markedly by 4 months, making reinfection much more likely, though this is a probabilistic decay rather than a hard cutoff, and there is considerable individual variation.)

      1. londonedit*

        In the UK the booster programme only runs to those over 50 and those who are clinically vulnerable. Most people have had Omicron at least once here (even the fully vaccinated – my sister has now had six vaccinations and has had Covid three times in the last year) so the thinking is that most under-50s will have some immunity from being infected and they’re unlikely to have major complications from the virus.

        1. MsSolo UK*

          I really wish our government would extend the booster programme, even if it is privately (which I object to, but frankly, it’d still be better than nothing). There’s no under 5s vaccination at all, and 5-12 is only if you’re in an at risk group, so there is a large portion of the population who spend a lot of time in contact with each other and adults every day completely unvaccinated (and unmasked, under UK guidance), and as time moves on even as those kids become eligible it’s increasingly unlikely they’ll go on to get vaccinated.

      2. Luna*

        I was thinking the same, suggesting masking more often or overall being a bit more cautious about distance, hygiene, etc. Especially since we’re also heading into the typical cold and flu season.
        And it has been shown that the frequent masking and distancing during the earlier years of the pandemic has significantly reduced the infection rate of colds and flus.

        On a PSA note, I have been boostered once and then caught Covid in June 2022. Fortunately, a very mild version (mostly a very scratchy throat) and I did not infect anyone in my household. I do want to get my second booster as a risk patient, but my GP has told me recently that I don’t need to worry about it right now due to the infection being similar to a booster for about six months. So, I can at least wait until 2023 to get my second booster, which is fine.

        But, yes, overall, if you can get vaccinated, please do!

      3. Shhhh*

        Given how many people I know that have been infected 3 months-a year after their first (non bivalent, obviously) booster, it’s definitely a good and timely reminder. I’m one of those people. It wasn’t a big deal for me since I had been vaxxed and boosted and I was able to fully isolate and recover, but it would make sense for someone in LW’s role to give a general reminder about masking at this stage.

  3. Michelle Smith*

    I hate that situation so much for everyone involved. I know three people who have died from COVID so I completely understand the concern. I wish you the best in navigating this issue, because the law matters here but so do people’s lives.

    1. lilsheba*

      I do too. If I was near someone who wasn’t vaccinated I would want to know!! The person who doesn’t know, that isn’t fair to them. Someone being unvaccinated is affecting others around them.

          1. Lurker With A Shoulder Chip*

            While I completely understand the reflex given [gestures] society, let’s please remember that there are people who can’t get vaxxed for legitimate reasons. Yeah, a depressing number of people are being obstinate tools, but they don’t negate people who have their own complex, private medical reasons for not getting it. We cannot tell what the new hire’s situation is from this letter, and it’s irrelevant to the OP anyway.

            1. Jane*

              While true this is a really tiny slice of people – far smaller than the number of people who think it applies to them.

              It’s close to only people who have had an anaphylaxis reaction to vaccine components – and even a large slice of those folks won’t be allergic to every one of the vaccines that are available.

              1. Mahkara*

                There’s also the slice that’s undergoing a procedure that would make the vaccine not work (like in the process of getting a bone marrow transplant). But I’d agree that it’s an incredibly small slice. (And, of course, people in the non-allergic reaction slice are immunologically frail enough that they’re likely doing other things to protect themselves.)

              2. Ellie*

                Cancer patients, those with leukemia, etc. who are currently undergoing chemo can’t get it either (or are advised by their doctor’s that its useless to anyway). The chemo kills off the antibody things that your body develops after you have the vaccine. As tempting as it is to reveal someone’s vaccination status, it really is private medical information that could easily be used to discriminate against someone, for something that is not their fault.

                OP’s only option is to either keep quiet, or advocate for better Covid protections generally. It sounds like they could do that pretty safely though, since they’re already known in that kind of role.

                1. J*

                  There’s a lot of ways to get it as a cancer patient, depending on timing and treatment. I was lucky enough to be a participant of a blood cancer study on such things (actually two, on antibodies and T-cells) and it’s a lot more nuanced and most cancer patients in active treatment today should have vaccines in some capacity. While they may have response issues (and most studies show some response after 3 or more shots) there’s rarely a case where patients are advised completely against vaccination for the past 2 years.

                2. I hate Ohio*

                  I have several friends who have cancer and they have all gotten all of the shots available. They are at different stages in their treatment.

            2. rolly*

              “let’s please remember that there are people who can’t get vaxxed for legitimate reasons. ”

              I would imagine having clarity of who else is unvaccinated around them would be particularly important.

          2. Cataclysm*

            To add on to Lurker, I will point out that I know a person who is deathly allergic to the vaccine. As in “attempted to get a dose and ended up in the ICU.”

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              I have an online friend who has a clotting disorder. He can’t get the vax because of it. He is more careful to mask because Covid also causes clotting where it shouldn’t be.

        1. Cynan*

          Sure, but the unvaccinated person knows the risk they’re taking and is choosing to take it anyway. The issue isn’t the amount of risk; it’s the unknown risk.

          1. Lurker With A Shoulder Chip*

            Might not be a choice. I mean, I know it most likely *is*, but we don’t know from the letter why the person isn’t vaxxed.

            1. Worldwalker*

              If I was unable to get the vaccine for some legitimate reason, I’d want to tell the people around me immediately, and take any precautions that they felt necessary.

              This guy is deliberately and selfishly risking others’ lives.

            2. OP poster*

              OP here.

              I don’t know why the person isn’t vaxxed and would not ask, since the reason isn’t relevant to the reason we ask vax status of visitors in the first place. (Which is to have people state that they aren’t aware of having COVID, being around someone who has active COVID and are following CDC/state guidelines to reduce spread of COVID (which officially seem kind of non-existent these days, unfortunately)

              He did mention in a casual conversation after he got hired that he had COVID earlier this year, and I got the impression he thinks that’s all the immunity he needs. He’s in his 60s, and from what I’ve read from reputable sources, that puts him at increased risk of severe illness himself.

              But I’m not his medical provider or family member, so I’m not going to get into with him whether he is or isn’t following the best health care practices for himself.

              1. Tinkerbell*

                Can you focus on the reorganization of the workspace, then, and not mention the new co-worker at all? I mean, your existing coworker might infer things from “gee, given the way the desks have been rearranged, you might want to consider masking more” but you’re not technically discussing their co-worker or their medical decisions!

            3. Esmeralda*

              Whatever their reason for not vaxxing, it doesn’t matter what risk the unvaxxed person is taking FOR THEMSELF. Being unvaxxed puts OTHER PEOPLE AT RISK. That’s the problem and everything is beside the point.

              If I myself could not vax for a legit reason, I would wear a mask, social distance, and TELL MY COWORKERS so that THEY could be safe. (And yes, I’m vaxxed and boosted and I wear a mask and social distance because vaccines are not 100%)

              Sorry (not really sorry) for shouty caps. I just want people to stop dicking around with other people’s health. I’d like people to give just one little smidge of consideration for those who do not want to get a disease that could kill them, or do not want to have extremely serious long term health effects, or do not want to harm vulnerable family members.

              I don’t care why anyone is unvaxxed. I really don’t. Legit, not legit, it’s none of my business. Just wearing your freakin mask.

        2. biobotb*

          But they’re aware of and choosing to take the risk. Vaccinated people who are unknowingly around an unvaccinated person are not necessarily choosing that risk.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            No confirmed study or scientific literature I’ve seen as of yet has implied that the antibodies from catching Covid are close to as lasting or effective as the vaccine. Most are very clear they they really aren’t.

            (And thanks to ongoing mutation, the vaccines, even the Covalent, are almost always a few mutations behind and even if they provide 96% protection against original Covid, they may provide much less protection against Current strains – so this isn’t blind praise of the vaccine.)

        3. Willow Pillow*

          They may be the most at risk, but everyone else is still at risk. I have a friend who was a front-line health care worker… got their first dose in Feb 2021 and their second in April 2021. Their child brought COVID home from school, friend got it hard (boosters were just starting to become available and they hadn’t gone yet), and hasn’t been able to work in a year. Friend was not high-risk.

        4. short'n'stout*

          While they might have valid reasons not to get vaxxed, or maybe the vax doesn’t work for them, they do lose some protection by not being vaxxed. All the more reason for them to mask up, be especially diligent about distancing, and avoid optional situations that risk exposure (such as restaurants).

        5. Come On Now*

          Baby Yoda, no, not if surrounded by vaccinated folks. I think unvaccinated people want everybody else to get the shot to protect them.

      1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

        I would really recommend not relying on the fact of anyone being vaxed. The vaccinations do play some role in reducing transmission, but a vaxed person can still catch and transmit it, especially if it’s been a few months since their last booster. I would rather put my trust in good quality fitted masks (I like the 3M Aura) and fresh air.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            Good to know I’m not alone and have immunologists backing up my position. (And I’m also a big fan of the 3M Aura. I have heard a lot of the ones on Amazon are counterfeit, but places like home improvement stores are distributors for 3M and you can trust them more.)

            For those of you who haven’t tried this mask style, it has cushy “weatherstripping” along the top edge that not only pads the nose wire but makes a good seal around your nose. (At least for European-style noses like mine. I haven’t actually polled people whose noses have lower/no bridges. But it would probably help the mask stick to the nose.) They have a really soft lining and conform to faces of different shapes and sizes. (My jaw/chin area are not compatible with the rigid “cup” N95s I tried during the wildfires in 2020.)

            1. Minimal Pear*

              Ooh I’ll have to look this up, the masks I’ve been using still don’t QUITE seal right around my nose and I get some fog on my glasses.

      2. snarkfox*

        Maybe it’s because I’m in the US South and we don’t have the greatest vaccination rate, but I never assume anyone is vaccinated, and definitely not with the latest booster. In fact, I know very few people who have taken the most recent booster.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I’m in the Pacific Northwest (of the US), and so many people are getting the vaccination booster near where I live, it’s tough to get the vaccine – pharmacies keep running out of it.

      3. Kotow*

        But the thing is, if the family member’s health condition is that severe, the employee is already taking a risk if he’s staying unmasked indoors. There are simply too many people who are fully-vaccinated and received all boosters for it to be otherwise. It would have made sense early on to assume that if someone is vaccinated that you won’t be exposed to Covid, but it just isn’t that simple anymore and hasn’t been for awhile. Even if it were still the case, assuming this is in the U.S., around 30 percent of the country did not get any type of Covid vaccine. You simply do not know who has or hasn’t received it, especially in a company that chose to not require it.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I’m giving the employee with the immunocompromised family member a LOT of side-eye for going unmasked indoors. Unless this is a tiny, tiny company and the community is nearly COVID-free, the probability is high that someone who *has* been vaccinated is walking around with a “mild” case of COVID that they mistook for allergies or a cold. After all, the flip side of “vaccines prevent serious illness” is that people get these mild infections that don’t even show up very consistently on home tests. My friends with immunocompromised family won’t even do stuff outdoors around people unmasked, let alone share the air all day in an office/factory with other people (especially if those others are unmasked).

          I live in Silicon Valley and our wastewater sampling shows that we have a “medium” incidence of COVID despite it barely showing up on the radar for hospitalization and reported cases. Wastewater sampling shows levels *much* higher than the valley between the peaks of major outbreaks in 2021, for example. I should probably be sticking to curbside pickup, but my pantry is full of all the stuff I bought to meet the minimum order $$ already, and I’m freshly boosted AND wear my 3M Aura N95 indoors. (I don’t know what the statistics are for uptake of the bivalent Omicron booster, but I had a harder time scheduling a flu shot at the grocery pharmacy than I did the COVID booster.)

          Anecdotally, my friends who have caught COVID seem to have gotten it either in restaurants, or while doing air travel (possibly while queueing with unmasked people in security), or from their kids in school.

          Dr. Fauci was just doing an interview where he said Germany was having a huge outbreak after Oktoberfest–all those people cramming into pubs together to sing and drink made great superspreader events. He anticipates Thanksgiving to work the same way here.

      4. Worldwalker*

        That was a singularly bad decision. Whether I have high blood pressure or diabetes only affects me. Vaccination status affects others.

        People deserve to know if they’re working with Typhoid Mary.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I have an immune compromised roomie, and I’m high risk due to age and other factors. Then again, I always mask outside of my home when I’m indoors, and I don’t GAF what anyone thinks.

      5. Warrior Princess Xena*

        It’s also entirely possible that they weren’t vaxxed when they started and have since received it. Or they aren’t vaccinated because they caught covid and figure they don’t need another dose. Or they have medical issues preventing them from getting vaxxed timely.

        This is why disclosing such medical information isn’t supposed to happen – because we do not and should not know every detail of other people’s medical information. I would honestly operate under the assumption that everyone around me is unvaxxed and continue onwards from there, especially in a workplace with no mask mandate.

  4. Neon*

    Legally/practically would this be any different than revealing an employee’s vaccination status for another disease?

    I appreciate the desire to inform the employee who has an at-risk family member, but would regard it as completely bananas if somebody at work came by and told me the guy at the next desk wasn’t vaccinated for flu/hepatitis/measles/whatever.

      1. hamsterpants*

        Given said global pandemic, I see it as even more my personal responsibility to mask etc to protect myself, rather than counting on herd immunity to protect my immuno-compromised self.

        People should also altruistically mask etc but it’s very clear that many people don’t, haven’t been, and won’t. Not to mention above points about transmission rates in spite of vaccination.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Employers and coworkers often think they have good, practical, or moral reasons for doing unethical things that invade their employees’ privacy.

        That’s why we need the laws.

    1. Kara*

      Do those not also have the potential to be a big deal, though? We’ve got a polio outbreak going on right now because people weren’t vaccinated, and multiple measles outbreaks in the past decade.

    2. Willow Pillow*

      If someone was vaccinated for monkey pox, there’s an implication about their sexual orientation that wouldn’t be present for, say, mumps.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        LOL. And people don’t have to be gay or even sexually active to get HIV.

        You can get monkey pox by contact and fluid exchange with pustules on an infected person. Sex is not required.

        1. just some guy*

          In many areas, monkeypox vaccination programs have been prioritising men who have sex with men, so Willow Pillow’s statement remains correct.

          The fact that some MPX-vaccinated people *aren’t* MSM does not prevent somebody who learns their co-worker’s vaccination status from making that assumption and stigmatising them.

  5. Bernice Clifton*

    I think sending out the email is a good idea, especially if your visitor form is just a checkbox to “Have you been vaccinated?”, vs. producing a vaccine card because some people not be honest in that case.

  6. LizB*

    Given the time of year, you could easily frame the reminder as, “As we enter flu season and potentially a winter uptick in COVID cases, employees are encouraged to take whatever precautions make sense to them to stay healthy. [Company] does not require vaccination or disclose vaccination status for flu shots or COVID vaccines.”

    1. Ampersand*

      I think this makes the most sense, I appreciate that some people feel Covid is exceptional, but really it is medical advice and your employer’s input should be providing appropriate support (time off/freedom to mask/moving work spaces) of the employee’s personal decision and that’s it.

    2. Whale I Never*

      This is a really great idea, because it flags the message in a way that points to *a* reason people might need to be more cautious than before without making it obvious that it was prompted by the new coworker. I think a general reminder might not have a “call to action” in the same way, per se.

      1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

        I agree that framing it as seasonal along with the flu might help, because the flu can also be dangerous/deadly to the immunocompromised, and I’m assuming the other employee doesn’t want to bring that home to their loved one either.

    3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I would change the last thing to remember to mask, wash hands, stay home if sick because clear instructions are better. The OP wondered if he should tell not that people were asking or that that’s a problem in this office.

      1. LizB*

        I think adding clear instructions would be good, and should have put that in my script too! But the real purpose here is to basically tell this specific employee with a vulnerable family member (and any others who might care) in a legally and morally defensible way that hey, heads up, not everyone around you might be vaccinated. By including a line about the vax policy, you’re giving that heads up, since why would you include it if the whole company remained vaccinated? It’s a way to ping people’s awareness without actually saying YO THIS SPECIFIC PERSON IS UNVACCINATED.

      2. Smithy*

        In general this is good (and relatively normal) time to also remind staff what policies are around sick time. Either because the last few years during peak COVID had exceptions or just general reminders in advance of flu season. If there are options to work at home, reminding staff how to get those accommodations – and if there aren’t, just saying “if you or family members are sick, here is our policy, xyz.”

        Working on an email like this might also enable HR to flag for senior management any language around what anyone with concerns (i.e. at risk family members) should do. It can be as simple as “if you have any questions or concerns, please notify HR” – but it may empower the OP in advance to move certain staff to more excluded spots, stock up on masks, etc.

    4. shruggie*

      I like this language, and yeah, the seasonal framing is perfect. It would also be worth spelling out some of the precautions the company will accommodate or implement (like moving work stations, etc). I’m guessing here, but it sounds like those options haven’t been laid out clearly before, since everyone understands everyone else to be vaxxed.

    5. CheesePlease*

      I really like this. You could also include a brief note re: flu shots being covered by your insurance plan and encouraging people to make appointments, and letting individuals know that hand sanitizer is available from the supply closet if needed.

      1. LizB*

        More great things to add! And letting people know that bivalent boosters are now available that provide protection against more recent variants, since there seems to have been a serious lack of messaging/awareness around those (at least in my area).

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          This is our current strategy. Make announcements reminding people that it’s flu season and Covid is still present. Each announcement includes reminders to stay home sick if you have symptoms of any contagious disease, handwashing protocols, where to find free masks in the supply closet, and that employees can get flu/covid vaccines for free – you can even do it on the clock so you don’t use any PTO.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Including flu shots is good to because apparently flu has come roaring back this year.

        One of my employers, pre-pandemic, offered on-site flu shots every year, free or low cost, depending on insurance. I think going forward we will end up with spring and fall Covid boosters, and fall flu shots.

    6. FridayFriyay*

      I agree with this and would add that in most areas of the US right now there are huge surges of pediatric hospitalizations caused by covid, RSV, and flu – another reason why employees should be mindful of masking and hand washing especially anyone who has young kids (even if they aren’t otherwise especially vulnerable.) A good excuse to send the message now if this is true in LW’s area.

    7. Governmint Condition*

      For the last sentence, I would add “as of MM/DD/YY” to qualify it. This helps flag that recent hires may or may not be vaccinated.

      1. BubbleTea*

        I feel like this is functionally the same thing as saying “this person is not vaccinated” unless it’s a huge company with dozens and dozens of new people starting all the time.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        But it sounds like they never required vaccinations, just that all employees were vaccinated (or at least, OOP thinks that they were all vaccinated). Any employees might not be vaccinated and/or might not have gotten the latest bivalent booster, it’s just that this particular new hire is the only one that OOP knows for a fact is unvaccinated.

        1. Chris too*

          The first thing that occurred to me – based on what I do, which isn’t office work – is, how high are the ceilings? I think most commenters here are office-based and imagining a drop ceiling at 8 or 10 feet because it’s what they’re used to.

          Where I work we have four different ceiling heights and have decided the highest one – 30 or 40 feet maybe? is basically like being outdoors. I’m very covid cautious and whether I’m wearing a mask depends not just on whether I’ll be close to others – I’m usually 20 feet away – but on the ceiling height in the area I’ll be going through or working in. There has been some transmission in the low ceiling areas but none in the high ceiling areas. I’m wondering if that’s got something to do with the person’s decision not to wear a mask.

          1. amoeba*

            Also, the ventilation – in our labs, we generally have excellent ventilation (for obvious reasons), so it’s at least pretty close to outdoor air.

    8. Purple Cat*

      This is the way!
      Especially because in my office there seems to be “something” going around that people are testing negative for COVID for. So the general reminder to keep your germs at home is a good one.

    9. Chinook*

      I agree – a reminder that this is cold and flu season and everyone should take appropriate precautions. That could also include bringing in a nurse to give seasonal flu vaccines.

      The flip side to that is recognizing that not everyone can have every vaccine for medical reasons. I am fully vaccinated (not just covid but all the other recommended ones and a few extras for travelling) but will not be getting any more covid vaccines, on the recommendation of my neurologist, because of the severe reaction I had to my first one (note – I did have the second one, so don’t pile on about me being anti-vax. It made things worse). If I found out that a coworker or boss had informed my coworkers of this fact without my knowledge or permission, I would be quite upset at someone disclosing my current health condition, especially so many people scoff at talk about medical exemptions or documented vaccine injuries. There is nothing like being painted with a giant scarlet letter at a new job just because your body reacted differently to a wide spread medical procedure.

      So, please OP, keep in mind that you don’t know that new employee’s full story and, unless there is a legit business need to disclose, medical information should remain private and confidential.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Thank you for doing your best on the vaccine. You had a strong reaction to the first one, and still went and got the second one. You’re my hero of the day.

      2. bratschegirl*

        I have a colleague in your situation. Severe reaction to initial shot #2 in their case, leading to medical advice against any boosting, at least with mRNA vaccines. Now that the Novavax non-mRNA vaccine has been approved for boosting in addition to as a primary series, that might be a possibility for some folks.

    10. MonaLisa*

      This is great phrasing.

      All I could think of was this scenario:
      – New guy gets hired.
      Which is… not ideal.

      1. LizB*

        Yeah, I also wondered how many new people have been hired in the last [time period], and if there could be plausible deniability that the “reminder about our vax policy!” might be about any number of new coworkers. There’s a delicate line to walk of not specifically calling out this one person.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          There’s also “we are not monitoring who has or has not gotten the latest booster” because mass numbers of people who haven’t updated their vaccinations could possibly be a bigger issue than one person who admits they are not vaccinated.

      2. Aggretsuko*

        I would phrase it something along the lines of, “Remember that vaccination is not a requirement of our business. If you are concerned about your health, you should practice whatever safety procedures you deem necessary.” All you can do is hint, I think.

        Circa 2018, we used to have an asshole coworker (self-described as a psychopath) who grumbled at great length about how he had some kind of lung ailment but DID NOT WANT TO DISCLOSE IT to the entire office. (And yet, grumbled about it enough that I certainly heard about it, so he kinda self-disclosed anyway?) My supervisor, who was a super nice person, was forced to figure out, “how do I tell people not to come in while sick, without explaining that Psychopath specifically has issues about this?” So they had a general meeting about “don’t come in while sick, and hey, we just happened to buy a pack of surgical masks for the office in case anyone needs them! Did that make any difference in anything? Probably not in 2018, but that’s what he came up with.

        (I note that the days before we all went home in March 2020, I found the stash of masks and offered them to anyone who wanted any, so it came in handy for THAT, at least.)

        That said, if coworker is already going around mask-free, he’s probably already decided to take risks on his own, so I’m not sure if being more specific would make a difference these days.

    11. snarkfox*

      I think this might be the best approach. Some people seem to think there’s been a policy change, but there hasn’t–it’s just that, previously, all employees have been vaccinated, but now a new employee isn’t, for whatever reason.

      I’m in the US South, and I would never assume anyone was vaccinated due to a lot of ignorance down here (and of course some legitimate health reasons why people can’t get it). Unless the company made it public previously that everyone was vaccinated, I wouldn’t think everyone was to begin with, and especially not vaccinated with the most recent booster.

      Basically, I take my precautions with the assumption that no one around me is vaccinated and go from there.

    12. Ellie*

      This is a great idea. There’s a good chance too that if this person is strongly against vaccine’s, they’ll end up commenting on that email and out themselves. Then everyone will know and your hands will be clean.

    13. WishIWasATimeTraveller*

      I think this is a great approach also. Not only because you don’t want to make it pointedly about the new employee but because other nasties can be really harmful to the immunocompromised too. A change of season always seems result in a round of “something going around” in my experience.

    14. OP poster*

      OP here

      Great point about tying communication to the cold and flu season angle!

      Thanks Alison and everyone for the the commiseration and suggestions. Alison’s suggestion combined with a “it’s cold/flu season” flu/COVID vaccines are available and free on our insurance and “hey, we’ve got free N 95 masks, COVID test kits available for anyone who wants, just ask me” employee memo is likely the way I’m going to go.

      It’s really frustrating when what I would personally, morally choose to do as me is in direct conflict with what I am legally required to do or not do as a representative of an employer. The “all hands” reminder will be a way to try to balance that while allowing employees to keep ownership of their own personal health information and decisions.

  7. Jessica*

    I might take the coworker aside for a transparently frank talk and clarify for them that the company has no vaccine mandate, that new hires won’t be screened for having the vaccine, that others won’t be informed if people don’t have it, and that no precautions will be taken to protect others from close contact with unvaccinated people, nor will any consideration be given to people who are known to be extra vulnerable. Keep it hypothetical, and if he says “Are you talking about Fergus??” say “I can’t comment on any individual’s medical info, but I’m telling you this company’s general policy and practice, and protecting you is not their priority. I’m making sure you know this so you can protect yourself as you see fit.”

    1. Ex-prof*

      This is what I was thinking as well. It can be done with naming-no-names. If it could be done at the same time as moving the guy with the immunocompromised family member to a bench where he works alone, that would be good, too.

    2. CharlieBrown*

      Yep, this. If I were the employee with the vulnerable family member, and I found out that my company put me within close working distance of someone who refuses to be vaccinated I would be pissed.

      (And yes, I know, some people can’t get the vaccine, but the chances of that are extremely low, and if new employee were concerned about his health but couldn’t get the vaccine, he would probably be taking precautions, like wearing a mask.)

      1. ThatGirl*

        Plus most people who can’t get the vaccine are immunocompromised in some way and being extra careful because of that.

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          Exactly this. I am immunocompromised and cannot get vaccinated due to the fact I would have to go off my immunosuppressants for an extended period of time, before and after vaccination, in order to take it. Additionally, the fact that the vaccination itself would carry extra risks for me (there are a number of vaccinations I do have, and a list of those I cannot get due to risk).

          This is also why I don’t stress about whether people vaccinate or not. I am not dictating other’s risk profiles or decisions to them, and I also will protect myself as needed based on my conditions (which environments I feel are necessary to mask in).

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        Yes, but if the employee’s family member has a condition that is as serious as claimed, it’s on the employee to take precautions as well. Why are they not masking already if any encounter could be harmful to that family member?

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Because they don’t KNOW about the risk…..because the unvaccinated coworker’s status is confidential medical information.

    3. Winderly Landchime*

      I think the risk there is that there may be other workers who need this information than OP knows about. Yes this coworker is most at-risk now because of work stations and an immunocompromised family member but work stations can be changed and it would raise a flag if HR had that discussion with each person who was moved nearby the unvaccinated coworker. OP may not know everyone’s health status. For example, in discussing my partial return to the office, my boss didn’t realize I have a heart condition. We’ve known each other for more than 5 years and across two different jobs, and our office has fewer than 15 people who work for us…

      1. Worldwalker*

        Your heart condition won’t kill your co-worker’s family member.

        Remember that an anti-vaxxer killed Colin Powell.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I think Winderly is probably trying to say that their boss didn’t know Winderly was high-risk of complications.

    4. Morning Flowers*

      Yeah, I think it’d be pretty easy to gently nudge the coworker about a need to be careful in a way that just barely passed muster ethically … but I’d be careful about it depending on whether or not I thought the coworker might do something to pin me on it later (“HR told me so-and-so wasn’t vaccinated” even though HR took great pains to say no such thing, etc.). I’m sad to say, sometimes it really is true no good deed goes unpunished. :-/

    1. Bob-White of the Glen*

      And if they have a medical condition and can’t be vaccinated?

      You are making some assumptions here.

      Regardless, statistically speaking you will get COVID if you not masking up (and/or one of the ones who doesn’t get it), and taking pretty heavy precautions. I (totally vaccinated) got it from a (totally vaccinated) coworker when it was tearing around the county. As I have no one vulnerable in my life, I didn’t care and with the vaccine it was just an illness. (Plus, I had a very important wedding less than 2 months later and was kindof happy I’d built all the immunity possible.)

      The unvaccinated, and unfortunately medically impaired, are far more likely to get serious complications from this. (But for the young and healthy, even that is not often.) They have the same data we do and I believe they have the right not to be injected by something that scares them. Doesn’t mean I believe them to be participating in society properly, but freedom often means people do things we don’t like.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Freedom is not the right to put other people’s lives at risk. It’s not something you don’t like—it’s something that can kill innocent people.

        You have the freedom to drink. You have the freedom to drive. But you don’t have the freedom to drink and drive.

        If you want to dye your hair magenta and wear 70s disco outfits, you do you. But if you want to risk killing people, that’s a different thing entirely.

      2. Thursday Next*

        Really the crux of the issue is, if staff haven’t provided vaccination proof , they are the ones who should be made to mask up, to protect coworkers. That should be a requirement of the job.

  8. COVID Is Airborne*

    Proximity does matter — but indoor air quality matters just as much. If the employee with the at-risk family member is sharing a room with the unvaccinated employee, they’re at risk even if their workstation is farther away.

    OP, really, your entire company is at risk by simply sharing indoor spaces and not masking. The virus can linger in the air for hours after a carrier has left, so even personal offices and single-occupancy restrooms are not “safe.” Since vaccinated people can still transmit the virus, any person with at-risk family members should be wearing N-95s, KN-95s, or elastomerics around other people; using a personal HEPA filter at their desk; opening office windows, etc.

    Of course, companies should be flat-out requiring masks, installing advanced filtration systems, and allowing people to work from home as much as they want … but in a world where we blithely ignore hundreds of people dying per day, I’m not optimistic that many business owners are that enlightened and caring.

    1. Presea*

      OP’s company is manufacturing, so the employees in question are most likely completely unable to complete their duties from home. Otherwise, I agree, mask mandates and private masking policies really should still be in effect. All the same, OP may not be in a position to create or enforce such a policy.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        OP says that the owners aren’t keen on mandates, and that any mention of a vaccination policy has been shot down….so however you feel, it’s not helpful advice for the OP, unfortunately.

      2. OP poster*

        OP here – yes, basically every single employee except me would be unable to work from home.

        Most people work in a large, high ceilinged, production space. The company leases the space, so can only do so much with the existing HVAC, but has added ventilation, air exchange where it could.

    2. Love to WFH*

      Yes, to improving air quality! These measures will reduce employees being out sick with colds, flu, RSV and COVID. My local children’s hospital just added a tent outdoors because there are so many kids seriously ill with RSV, flu, and COVID. A coworker in another state mentioned that his local school just closed temporarily because of a surge in RSV cases.

      Buy some CO2 monitors to post around the space, so everyone can see if the air is fresh or not.

      Add air purifier machines liberally.

      Have the HVAC inspected and a discussion with the contractor around what changes could be made to improve indoor air safety. They could add more fresh air intake, improve filters, etc.

      If you have windows that open, start opening them.

        1. nona*

          In a potentially controlled manufacturing environment.

          OP doesn’t say it’s a cleanroom, so I’m not going to assume it is., but open windows (if there even are any) aren’t always compatible with a manufacturing environment. Air exchanges should be, though.

          1. allathian*

            Mmm. Even in a cleanroom manufacturing environment, that doesn’t apply to office jobs. But the people who are actually working in the cleanroom wear pretty heavy PPE anyway.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Came here to say something similar.
      If your company won’t require masks – and I believe you that they won’t! – having proper ventilation and filtration is extra important.

    4. Russian In Texas*

      I can see the owners of my company going with “you want special filters? You buy them”.
      Besides, the office is in the shared office building, HVAC depends on the building owners. Oh, and the windows don’t open, because it’s a standard office building.
      Luckily I work from home now, but half of my colleagues are in the office. Mask usage was high in the beginning, but by now, it’s pretty much non-existent.

  9. calvin blick*

    If the coworker is in the same room as the unvaccinated person, proximity won’t matter that much. The six foot “social distancing” rule was not based on anything, and if the unvaccinated person gets covid the whole company will be exposed no matter what, unless the office is extremely well ventilated.

    In any case, while the vaccines probably slow transmission, the office will probably eventually get exposed anyway.

    1. Raven*

      Agree with your point.
      Though I will say, the social-distancing rule im general was based on the idea of reduced viral load.
      Distancing was meant to protect yourself, masking was meant to protect other people.
      They were meant to work in parallel to reduce the average viral load recieved by any one person and hence reduce infection rates.
      Thus utilising one without the other (as many people did) is less effective and resulted in higher infection rates.
      The lack of either in the UK is why infection rates have remained high despite high vaccination rate, even if the severity on average has been reduced.

  10. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    Yes, offer all employees greater distancing, if possible. Even if nobody is lying about their vaccination status, the vaccines aren’t effective for everyone, and someone might not realize they’re in that unlucky group.

    Improved ventilation and/or HEPA filters will also benefit everyone, vaccinated or not. Upgrading the ventilation doesn’t risk revealing anyone’s vaccination or other health status, beyond the obvious fact that all your employees breathe oxygen.

  11. Temperance*

    Can you remind everyone that the policy changed and vaccines are not required as of X date? It gets the message out and is vague enough that you’re not pointing out that Jim isn’t vaccinated. Of course, if you’re a tiny operation, it will be very obvious that only one person was selfish enough not to get the damn shot, but it’s likely not violating any laws.

  12. lyngend (canada)*

    If the LW has the power/authority to do so, what about sending (or requesting this be sent) an email/announcement saying that employees are no longer required to be vaccinated?

    1. Allonge*

      I feel like that does not quite send the right message? I would not take it as ‘so be even more cautious’ but as ‘well, we don’t care’.

      1. Six for the Truth*

        Good!!! They DON’T care. This organization is a pro-death-cult plague pit, and any employee who is unaware of that deserves the reminder.

  13. the Viking Diva*

    It’s not fair to plunk their workstations down next to each other when you know this. Find an excuse to separate them, as well as giving the general heads-up that there is no vax policy.

    And then crank up the HVAC in the workspace (all workspaces!) and install a CO2 meter and display so everyone can see the air turnover.

  14. Monday*

    I think Allison’s suggestion of a company wide reminder email is the way to go. A commenter also suggested framing it as a winter season message. Every day as humans we interact with people whose vaccination status, symptoms, and health we can’t know. Also as the OP points out, this is likely not the only employee with a vulnerable person at home.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, we have an anti-vaxxer in upper management (thankfully she’s not in the office much) and she outed herself, so at least we all know. And until recently (sigh) she did mask while here.

  15. curmudgeon*

    As someone who also cannot work from home and lives with immunocompromised family members, it really makes me spit nails to know I’m the only one still wearing a mask/practicing social distancing. So I can’t offer any advice but I commiserate with the OP’s employee.

  16. Essess*

    You could also privately ask the new employee if it is okay to share that they are not vaccinated because they are working with people that have immunocompromised family. You would reassure them that they have the right to say “no”, and that HR will maintain confidentiality.

  17. WorkingMom*

    I would be pretty ticked off if my HR department was sharing my private health information with other employees. Sure, the unvaccinated employee may just be anti-vax but they may also be unvaccinated because they can’t be for medical reasons that they are not obligated to share with everyone.

    I think it is up to every person to determine their comfort level and to what degree they want to distance, mask, only work remotely from home, go to store or only use contactless pickup, etc.

    Vaccinated individuals can still get Covid just as people who got the flu shot can still get the flu. And if they get sick (even without symptoms), they can spread it to others. I think the fact that the HR is requiring for any visitor to disclose their vaccination status is overstepping.

    And before anyone jumps to any assumptions about this being a post from an antivaxxer, it’s far from it. I am vaccinated and so is our whole family – and we all got Covid after vaccinations. One of us spent weeks in hospital, we lost a vaccinated family member to Covid, someone close to me is now living with severe health issues from the vaccine, and I live with two immunocompromised people. So like pretty much everyone else, I have seen and been closely affected by Covid … but I can’t control what others do just as I don’t want them controlling me. So I make my choices based on my own comfort level.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I hate to say it because I’m so pro-vax, but at this point, a lot of places aren’t even bothering with vaccination requirements any more because you can still easily catch covid. This question sadly doesn’t matter as much as we thought it would in 2021 anyway. Vaxxed or unvaxxed is still easily infectious, just maybe somewhat less likely to be :/ (sigh)

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m jumping in to add: because it doesn’t matter if it is one person.
      It’s not about one unvaxed person, or one at risk person. This is about everyone.
      The office should remind everyone to take precautions because it is in the best interest of the business to let employees know that the company supports health measures.
      I’m not saying come in as a parent to child, “you need to do this,” but rather as a team, “we want you to feel safe and to be safe. Please wear a mask, social distance, sanitize and we support you.”

    3. Russian In Texas*

      I got COVID last week, luckily super mild (I had many worse sinus infections), after vaccination, and 2 boosters, one only a month ago. It’s a crapshoot now.
      I am in the South, I can’t presume anyone is vaccinated, very few people I know got the second booster, and masks are very much are not a thing. Not even in medical buildings.
      I have many friends who got it while being vaccinated. And boostered. Basically, expect to get it at some point.

      1. allathian*

        Yup, this. I’m luckily in an area with good vaccination coverage, except that our health authorities aren’t offering a 4th vaccine to those under 65 who don’t have any other risk factors. They’re also stating that a Covid infection is the equivalent of a booster dose, which I’m not convinced is true. But I’ve been sicker with the flu (even when vaxxed) and tonsillitis than I was with Covid, so I realize I got off lightly, and fortunately I have pretty much unlimited sick leave, so I don’t have to work when I get sick. I got sicker from my flu/shingles shots than I was at any time during my bout with Covid, but fortunately that only lasted 24 hours… I’m also lucky in that I don’t seem to have had any long-term symptoms. I was very tired for about a month to the point that I was glad to WFH so I could nap during my lunch break.

        Covid is a serious problem, but it’s still just another infectious respiratory illness. Flu kills people by the hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, every year, and it flies largely under the radar. Sooner or later, the same thing’s going to happen to Covid, too, because in some places it already has. The more recent Covid variants are more infectious but less lethal than the original and first variants were. Vaccinations won’t stop you getting sick, but they will protect the vast majority of people from dying. Our health authorities have straight up said that they aren’t even trying to prevent people getting sick, just to minimize the number of people who need to be hospitalized and the number of deaths.

    4. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I got vaxxed and still caught Covid this last summer. I also got hit with a cold this spring that hit just about every school in the area, despite most of them still having Covid precautions up, and know as a fact that was not Covid.

      Disclosing people’s vaccination status is not going to be a solution for anything except a lot of anger and potentially a lawsuit depending on the location of the business. Reminding people that cold and flu season is coming up so please mask/wash your hands/take precautions as necessary will probably be more effective and much less likely at starting a nasty fight.

    5. amoeba*

      Yup. In my bubble, pretty much everybody is vaccinated (luckily) and basically everybody has had COVID at some point. While I absolutely agree on a societal level that high vaccination rates are extremely desirable to limit spread and keep people out of the ICU, whether or not the person sitting opposite me has had the shot or not doesn’t really appear to make a big difference in Omicron times anymore. Definitely not so much influence that I’d feel safe without a mask with a vaccinated coworker but unsafe with an unvaccinated one.

  18. Tesuji*

    It does feel like the responsible thing is to make sure that everyone is crystal clear that the company doesn’t have a vaccination mandate, and that everyone needs to understand that coming into work means that they are accepting certain health risks because of that.

    The flipside, however, is that the kind of company that doesn’t have a vaccination mandate probably also doesn’t want anyone to point out that there may be direct and serious consequences to that choice, so this could easily end up a “my job or my ability to look at myself in the mirror” kind of situation.

    1. Mr. Shark*

      I could be wrong, but it seems like a lot of companies (including mine) backed off on the vaccination mandate when it was shot down by the federal government. Many companies kept the masking mandate until fairly recently, but I don’t know if I’d expect any current company would have a vaccination mandate.

      1. mlem*

        My company still has — for now — a vaccination requirement, and they fired a few people over it after giving about half a year to get into compliance, but then some of our staff are sent to hospitals.

        It does allow medical, pregnancy, or religious exemptions, and back when we had a masking requirement for the exempted (or not yet fired) unvaccinated, “it became obvious” (per official communication) that some weren’t following it. So … I just assume there’s always at least one unvaccinated person in any building at any time. Whee.

      2. Russian In Texas*

        I know one (ONE) person who’s employer had the vaccination mandate, and she works in a hospital, non-medical position.
        My boyfriend’s huge corp started with it and then just dropped it completely. Mine never started.

      3. OP poster*

        OP here

        Company owners basically followed government requirements for full shutdown when ordered state wide, then masking and temperature/health checks required for reopening and then dropping those things when the CDC, state dropped them.

        I’ve decided to keep the visitor screening to (in theory) keep people with known active COVID from interacting with people who work here, and have vaccination status available for people who will be interacting with visitors so they can choose whether to mask for the meeting. So mask anyway, but it’s the employee’s call on a case by case basis.

  19. a clockwork lemon*

    I’ll be honest, all of this feels kind of like an overstep? It’s not clear how OP knows the employee has a vulnerable family member, but we do know that the employee with the at-risk family member is at least unconcerned enough about communicable diseases that they have chosen not to wear a mask around people who could 1) still be transmitting COVID (it’s well established at this point that vaccinated people can catch and transmit COVID); and 2) be transmitting any number of other contagious non-COVID mild illnesses all the time.

    It’s especially concerning that OP is even considering prioritizing the hypothetical safety of a non-employee over the actual medical privacy of an actual employee and justifying it by creating an unrequested accommodation for someone else.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        Not an antivaxxer–just a vaccinated and disabled person who would be pretty upset if HR started sharing medical information about me with other employees because they know someone in my family has a medical condition and have made assumptions based on that knowledge and their own morals.

        Medical privacy isn’t a conditional right and it’s not acceptable for people with access to that sensitive information to be sharing it with others because they’ve got some ~*~ vibes ~*~

          1. Allonge*

            Because in this case, there are too many unknowns in the situation to point at one unvaccinated person as a major, single risk for infection.

            A lot of people are not wearing masks, COVID can be transmitted by someone who is vaccinated, and the company has no vaccination mandate. Coworker with vulnerable family member is presumably aware that they work with a lot of people who in turn know a lot of other people and therefore there is some risk of them getting COVID and transmitting it to vulnerable family member.

            OP seems more worried about this whole thing than coworker. If OP wants to do something, they should try to get a booster shot campaign rolling.

            Also why on earth is a visitor form asking about COVID vaccination status? What is done with this info?

        1. MeepMeep123*

          I’ve got high-risk family members and I’d be even more upset if one of them ended up literally dead because HR didn’t share that information. The right to privacy can, and should, be subordinated to other compelling interests, and the preservation of life is one of those.

          (As another example – I am an attorney who does some family law work. A lot of deadbeat parents try to use “financial privacy” as a way to get out of paying the child support they’re supposed to pay. The state expressly limits their privacy right in this situation because the child’s right to child support outweighs their right to privacy).

          1. a clockwork lemon*

            Then as an attorney, you will also know that you have an obligation not to share information you learn about your clients with third parties in the absence of your client’s consent or a judicial order. Privilege doesn’t disappear just because you dislike your client’s choices.

            And since you brought up the comparison with financial privacy–OP wouldn’t be justified in mailing a stack of paystubs to a deadbeat parent’s ex because they feel passionately that people should pay their child support, either.

          2. Malarkey01*

            This seems like an odd comparison because the state LAW limits financial privacy in your example while the federal LAW protects medical information is this letter.

            As an officer of the court, it’s pretty surprising that you are arguing against someone following the law for sharing medical information.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        I’m fully vaccinated. I got all the boosters. I give regular trainings/announcements to staff reminding them about booster availability and that vaccines are safe, effective, free, and encouraged by our employer. I advocated for vaccine mandates both within my organization and at a state level. I’m about as far from anti-vax as is possible to get.

        I would be FURIOUS if my employer shared my vaccination status with my coworkers even though I’m happy to tell people about it myself… disclosing to coworkers is my choice, not my employer’s. This is private medical information. It’s legally protected, they are required to keep it confidential.

        If LW knew because New Person told her as a peer and she was sharing the gossip, that’s ethically a different situation. But she has an HR role and learned this through privileged access to private information.

        1. Sylvan*


          If one of my coworkers needs to know if I’m vaccinated, they’re free to ask. (The answer’s yes.) But the company doesn’t have any business sharing that information.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I do have to agree that if the employee is going around mask-free despite having a vulnerable family member, they’re already choosing to make a dangerous choice with regards to that family member. Unless you specifically know that the employee said, “I only go mask-free here because everyone here is vaccinated!” the employee has already chosen to take those risks. There probably isn’t quite as much as urgency to alert this person as to what is going on as we would have thought in 2021.

      1. Analyst Editor*

        This is a ridiculous statement.
        Safety and privacy, as safety and rights, are necessarily traded off, but if you claim to believe in a free society then rights have a fundamental value in and of themselves.

        My safety from sexual assault or crime does not permit preemptive curfews on an entire neighborhood, or quarantining all teenage boys until they’re 25. Someone accused of murder, even if it seems obvious they’re guilty, still gets due process, including privacy from searches without a warrant.

        In the case of COVID, when it was a plague on par with Ebola, the quarantines made sense. When the probability of catching COVID is functionally equivalent regardless of whether another person is vaccinated or not – and if the margin is small and poorly demonstrated this still holds – you have no standing to even claim “safety” as a significant consideration in violating the privacy right. Even if it was a 1% increase in your safety, still not a guarantee.

        1. Me ... Just Me*

          I agree 100% with this as a healthcare worker. It might tinge my conscious a little if new co-worker’s space-mate was conscientiously masking at work himself so he doesn’t bring COVID home, but the fact that he is living a regular life means to me that he has already weighed the risks and determined no extra precautions are needed. People seem to think that if you’re vaccinated 1. you won’t get COVID and 2. you can’t spread it. Both assumptions are patently false. Masking and isolation are truly the best measures to prevent the spread.

  20. Caramel and Cheddar*

    “it makes sense to remind everyone that the company doesn’t require vaccination and doesn’t share people’s vaccination status, and so if they are concerned about protecting themselves or high-risk family members, the company supports them in taking safety precautions like masking and adding more distance between work stations.”

    My workplace requires vaccinations, but beyond that they’ve sent out similar emails in the past and they always comes across to me as “Good luck, you’re on your own!” rather than as supportive from our company. Everyone’s mileage on that will vary, but I find these kinds of reminders depressing because it reminds me of all the ways that I’m required to use my social/political capital to stay safe at work instead of for doing my job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, I fully agree and that is in fact the subtext of that wording — because people need to know what help they are and, crucially, aren’t going to get from their employer.

    2. AnotherLibrarian*

      Well, yes. I mean, that is what the company is saying, “Good luck, you’re on your own”. Which, yeah, is sort of depressing, but also sort of the truth. I feel like people should be reminded this is the reality and after that, they can behave however they wish to behave.

  21. Hiring Mgr*

    Sending out a general reminder email as has been mentioned is fine, I wouldn’t say more than that though. If the employee’s family member’s condition is that severe, I’m sure he knows what to do as far as covid safety protocols, and he doesn’t seem to be too concerned if he’s not already masking

  22. Dawn*

    I think this is one of those cases where what’s legal isn’t exactly what’s ethical and it might be time for a less than subtle “Hey, I just wanted to remind you, specifically, that I can’t share anyone’s vaccination status with you, and that’s something you might want to take into consideration going forward,” significant eye contact, if you think that this employee is non-stupid.

    No solution in this situation is perfect, but I put defending someone’s life above 100% nondisclosure.

    1. Dawn*

      n.b. in my response: I am not American and with some notable outliers, vaccination and COVID are not such fraught issues here; almost 90% of the eligible population has completed the primary series.

      1. MeepMeep123*

        Thank you. I am appalled at how many people think that it’s OK to literally sacrifice someone’s life in the name of an antivaxxer’s “privacy” (especially when it’s perfectly OK to violate this “privacy” in order to protect their boss).

        1. Sylvan*

          Remember that legal case in the news a few years ago, when a dentist’s office outed one of their employees as HIV+ to every other employee? What are your thoughts on that employee’s privacy?

            1. Sylvan*

              That’s amazing. That’s truly an incredible level of entitlement to other people’s personal information and their vulnerability to discrimination.

              You’d really never see any dentist again because you don’t know that all of their employees are HIV-? That’s unfortunate, because there’s no way you know that about your current dentist. Weird way to dig your heels in.

            2. Cat*

              Wow your dentist appointments must be a lot more wild than mine have ever been if you think you could possibly contract HIV at one, even assuming your dentist was HIV+.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Apples and oranges. You can’t get HIV by someone breathing on you. The likelihood of an HIV+ employee in a dentists office bleeding on a patient is extremely low. The likelihood of a coworker in a manufacturing environment (or, frankly, most indoor environments) breathing on you is very high.

            1. Sylvan*

              What both situations share is that someone felt that they needed to share an employee’s private medical information. Of course there’s no 1:1 comparison.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            Not a comparison. HIV is not airborne. In a dental practice, it’s the patient whose status is more critical, because their mouth/bodily fluids are being worked on, not the staff.

            I hate to be a broken record, but
            a) Covid is not over. If anything pandemic is becoming endemic. But apparently only the at-risk and their families give a hoot about protecting the vulnerable.
            b) Covid is airborne, contagious, and has some nasty long-term side effects

            Just like typhoid and other high risk, airborne diseases, I don’t believe an individual’s “right” to medical privacy trumps other folks’ right to live. If you had strep or typhoid I think the law requires disclosure if you are infectious, and quarantine as well.

        2. atalanta0jess*

          That’s not an accurate framing though, because people who are vaxxed can still obviously catch and spread covid. The change in risk level to the coworker’s family is not as large as you’re making it out to be here.

  23. leduc*

    These seems patronizing to your employee. He’s an adult, he knows his family member’s situation, and he knows that there is no vaccine mandate where he works. He can make his own choices for his own life, and it’s not really any of your business.

  24. Kotow*

    Given that so many people who ended up with Covid especially in this latest wave have been fully vaccinated and received at least one booster, there is no zero-risk option. If the family member’s condition is that severe, the employee is already taking a risk by choosing to remain unmasked. I’m not saying they’re wrong to do so, but it’s far from “no risk.” Fully-vaccinated people coming down with Covid has been all over the news and social media that it’s hard to believe this person *wouldn’t* know the risk is still there. The company has chosen to not mandate vaccinations or masks, and quite frankly, it’s an overstep to even require disclosure from visitors when it doesn’t have a requirement for employees.

    I agree with the other comments that you can’t disclose someone’s medical history without permission to do so even if there would be a good reason to do so. You wouldn’t be able to disclose Jane’s Stage IV cancer diagnosis and the need to be frequently absent from work even though her absence is negatively affecting everyone else and disclosure would probably result in more understanding. There’s a reason why disclosure isn’t generally permitted. That said, you can remind everyone that the company does not require vaccinations of any kind and even use the “heading into flu season and holidays” as a reason for the reminder.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Cancer is not an airborne, infectious disease.

      IMO, disclosure rules should be different if it’s airborne contagious. If you can catch it while just breathing around a carrier, then it’s a public disease and people should have to be public about their immunization status. Medical privacy is not an absolute right. IIRC their are laws still on the books about notification of someone in the workplace having typhoid.

  25. Momma Bear*

    I would remind everyone that there are no longer vaccination and/or mask mandates and also that the flu season is ramping up. Everyone needs to assess their own level of comfort and caution. Anyone who wants to be more cautious and wear a mask should be encouraged to do so, which may include reminding others that they cannot harass anyone who masks up. I do not assume that anyone who walks into my office is vaccinated or negative. I take the precautions that work for me, same as I would anywhere else.

    1. Aimless and Abstract*

      Not just “assess their own level” and just “take the precautions that work for me” but also CONSIDER THOSE AROUND THEM.
      Your choices and actions impact others, period.
      Let’s not pretend that all you have to do is assess your own comfort and risk tolerance. You have to actively try not to kill others around you.
      If you want to be a decent human being.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        You have to actively try not to kill others around you.
        If you want to be a decent human being.


        My risk alone is different than my spouse and I, and that is different from the entire household. I might survive it, my spouse might survive it, but one of my roommates might not. We’re all vaxxed and boosted. So I take precautions based on the highest risk person in my household, because we’re all in the same risk pool.

    2. allathian*

      Yup, me too. And I would expect everyone else around me to do the same thing. No doubt Aimless and Abstract thinks I’m a horrible human being because I don’t mask up at the office. But the simple fact is that masks and glasses don’t work for me because I can’t find a mask that fits well enough to prevent fogging, and I can’t see well enough to use a computer without my glasses.

      I still wear a mask when I go to medical appointments and the pharmacy, because the likelihood of extremely vulnerable people being there is higher. I’m perfectly willing to wear a mask if I have to share air with a particularly vulnerable person, or who has high-risk family members, but in that case they’ll have to disclose that fact to me. I’m not currently willing to wear a mask for unknown strangers who may or may not be at risk anyway, when most people around me are doing the same thing. If that makes me a bad person in your eyes, I can live with that.

  26. T.*

    Vax prevents how sick you get, it does not stop the spread. Do not share their info. If you are scared, don’t work in public. People who are allergic to the vax are getting screwed by mandates and ostracized by people who think everyone needs to vax.

    1. Moryera*

      Cool, cool, “don’t work in public”, let me just change my entire career at the drop of a hat. We have enough healthcare workers right now if I quit, right?

    2. UKgreen*


      The social care system in the UK is currently in a state of virtual collapse because so many care home staff were sacked for being unable to be vaccinated.

    3. Eyes Kiwami*

      The employees in question aren’t even working “in public”, they’re working “on site”! We already sacrificed the health of on-site workers for the past two years for the safety of the masses and the continuing function of society. We have to protect people working on site, not sacrifice their health and say “if you’re scared then quit”!

    4. Six for the Truth*

      People who are allergic to the vax are getting screwed by mandates and ostracized by people who think everyone needs to vax.

      This is anti-vax propaganda. The number of people who have fallen for disinfo/misinfo about the vax is MUCH MUCH MUCH larger than the number of people who have genuine medical or religious reasons to be incapable of getting the vax – and that latter category has been exempt from every vax mandate I’ve seen.

      People who refuse to comply with vax mandates are scum willing to disable or murder strangers for their own comfort, in exactly the way that drunk drivers and negligent work site operators are scum.

      I don’t want to work with or near scum who might give me or my loved ones a life-threatening or disabling illness! I really don’t, and I don’t see how that’s a controversial position.

  27. louvella*

    I feel like if someone was concerned about getting covid at the office, they would be wearing a mask.

    1. MeepMeep123*

      Masks don’t protect the wearer as much as one would think. They prevent you from spreading disease much more than from catching disease. If you’re sitting across from a germy antivaxxer for 8 hours a day, you WILL catch something from them, mask or not.

        1. MeepMeep123*

          We know that this person is not vaccinated. This means two different things – either they CAN’T be vaccinated due to a severe condition, or they DON’T WANT to be vaccinated because of their ideology. The second group is much more numerous than the first, and much more likely to be visible in public. Furthermore, those whose ideology prevents them from getting vaccinated are also highly likely to take COVID risks in their out-of-work personal life, leading to the “germy” comment.

      1. Mekong River*

        Depends on the mask. KN95 & N95 masks are highly effective at preventing exposure in the wearer.

        “If you’re sitting across from a germy antivaxxer for 8 hours a day, you WILL catch something from them, mask or not.”

        Transmission likelihoods do not support this statement.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Yeah, it makes a big difference whether someone’s wearing a fitted *95 mask vs. a hospital mask that gapes an inch away from the face on each side. Someone in a mask that allows air to flow freely around the mask may be helping reduce droplets from spewing directly at someone, but they’re still exposed to everything they would be without a mask.

  28. Mekong River*

    “Until recently, all employees have been fully vaccinated (to the best of my knowledge). ”

    To the best of your knowledge. As angry as I get about unvaccinated people, the truth is that none of us really know just how effective a vaccine was in another individual (or in ourselves) or whether everybody we work with is up to date with boosters. Your question is about Unvaccinated Guy (UG), but there will be some people who were fully vaccinated but whose immunity has faded. Before UG joined the company, were you planning to inform Vulnerable Family Member Guy (VFMG) that immunity fades? If not, then drop this entirely. If VFMG is not masking to protect himself and his family, that’s on him, not you.

  29. I am just here for the free pizza*

    Masking up prevents others from getting your germs. I only somewhat prevents you from getting someone else’s. When the unmasked person breathes, sneezes, coughs, etc. that stuff still lands on you. Maybe not so much gets through your mask, but it for sure lands on it and then you touch your mask and…..

    1. mlem*

      Thank you for pointing this out. A lot of people here are assuming that expecting *other people* to vax or mask is intruding on *their* health decisions, which it is not! It’s asking them not to spread their disease!

      Wearing a mask decreases your likelihood of *spreading* Covid far more than it decreases your likelihood of *catching* Covid. Last I saw, surgical-style masks only lowered the “catching” risk by about 15% … and they lower risks by 0% if you wear them as a chin-strap or pull them down for face-to-face conversations (which are both scenarios I saw *just today*, ugh).

      Wear a mask to prevent sickening other people. Wear an N95-or-similar mask, well fitted, to try to protect yourself.

    2. Mekong River*

      Depends on the mask. KN95 masks are highly effective and are easily available now. Follow best practice on not touching your mask while washing your hands often, and you will be well protected.

  30. MeepMeep123*

    So, it is OK to share this person’s vaccination status with their interviewer because the interviewer would be sharing a room with them for an hour, but not with the person whose desk directly faces them for an entire workday? And it’s OK to make this person fill out a questionnaire asking about their COVID vaccination status for an interview at a company, but not OK to make this person disclose the same info to the people they’ll be sharing air with for an entire workday? And of course, requiring N95’s is way too much of an intrusion on everyone’s freedom?

    If I were the person with the clinically vulnerable family member, I’d be pissed. Heck, I AM a person with two clinically vulnerable family members, and the potential for situations like this has turned me into an angry shut-in. I no longer trust ANYONE around me to not kill my father or my daughter.

    1. Sylvan*

      Yes, it’s okay to ask for some information for one purpose but not share that information throughout the entire company.

      For example, job applications often ask whether an applicant has a disability. I do. I wouldn’t want someone to think this means my disability is no longer a private subject.

      1. MeepMeep123*

        Which leads to the next question: why is it OK to ask this question to protect the safety of this person’s manager, but not to protect the safety of this person’s deskmate?

        1. Sylvan*

          Nobody is saying that the desk neighbor can’t ask.

          The letter writer shouldn’t share that information, that’s all.

        2. Mekong River*

          During the interview, the new guy didn’t work there. After hiring, the new guy did work there. Different privacy laws apply to non-employees and employees.

          The guy with vulnerable family members should be wearing a KN95 mask and should work with HR (who is OP) on what kind of changes can be made around his work station to isolate him from other employees. Vaccinated immunity fades, and vaccinated+boosted people still get COVID. If he believes that being in a workforce that was fully vaccinated at one time is all the protection he needs, he is wrong. Why are we so hung up on this one guy when anyone at this workplace could transmit COVID?

      2. J*

        job applications shouldnt ask if you’re disabled. they can only ask after you have received an offer, because disability status cannot be used to influence a hiring decision. slightly off-subject, but it should be said.

        1. Sylvan*

          They ask pretty consistently. They also ask some other things, like whether you’re a veteran.

          My understanding, which could be wrong, is that they’re collecting demographic information in the interest of monitoring for discrimination. They’re not using it to weigh applicants’ candidacy.

        2. Russian In Texas*

          They ask all the time. Disability and veteran status. Usually in “do you belong to one of the categories covered by EEOC”.
          You can usually skip it.

        3. Lisa Simpson*

          They are legally required to collect that information for EEOC compliance, even if you choose to opt out of completing it or to lie on it. That way if they are audited, the auditors can see how many people from X demographic group applied vs. were hired for openings.

          1. amoeba*

            But as far as I understand it from the application processer I’ve been through, that information is actually kept separate and anonymous for statistical purposes and not available to the hiring manager?

  31. triplehiccup*

    Just because I see a lot of folks in this thread who are still masking, I want to share the absolute lowest price I’ve found on N95’s:

    The price will get cut in half again when you put it in the cart. I got 300 masks for $70 + free shipping, or 23 cents apiece. These are the lightest, most comfortable masks I’ve tried – better than Auras imo, and a fraction of the price. They don’t aggravate my TMJ issues or irritate my skin.

    Other masks as well as RATs are also 50% off. The sale runs through November.

    1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Thanks, I’m going to need more of those soon (I’ve been getting them from Project N95, but with the free shipping, this looks like a better deal).

    2. Jessica*

      thanks! I haven’t tried the duckbill style but have been thinking about it. The regular N95s make the best seal of any kind of mask I’ve tried, but they’re stuffy and make my face sweat. I’ve wondered whether the duckbill with a little more interior airspace would be less annoying.

    3. ShinyPenny*

      Hey, those are the masks I’ve been liking– less facial pain, more room to breathe, and the straps don’t tear out hair. The 3M Auras were my previous favorite, as well, but the facial pain was too much.
      I was just getting ready to buy more of the ACI N95s from ProjectN95 and the shipping cost was painful, so thanks for the link. Do you feel Armbrust USA is in the same category as ProjectN95 in terms of reliability?

  32. Seashell*

    I’m totally vaxxed and pro-vax, but at this point, I’d say the majority of vaccinated people I know have knowingly had Covid and some have probably have had asymptomatic cases. Being around someone vaccinated might partially decrease your risk of catching as compared to someone unvaccinated, but there’s still a significant risk just by virtue of being in close contact with someone else. It’s not logical to currently think, “Everyone in my office is vaccinated, so I’m fine.”

    1. The Other Dawn*

      Completely agree. I’m vaccinated and boosted, and had COVID in May. Most of my vaccinated family and friends had it, too.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Also provax. Vaxxed as soon as I could get it (was not in a high risk category). Still caught Covid this June. Honestly surprised I didn’t get hit earlier (I have family members who work in ERs with lots of covid-positive patients). Vaccination reduces your risk and makes it more likely that if you do catch it you will have a mild case vs needing to be in the hospital on a ventilator, but doesn’t drop it to zero.

    3. Tesuji*

      Sure, and a lot of sober people get in accidents, too.

      That has no bearing on whether a company that hides that they let drunk employees drive other employees around is a shit company.

      Beyond that, I’m completely okay saying that someone not being vaccinated is probably (not definitely, but probably) highly correlated with other behavior that’s going to increase my risk of catching Covid from being around them.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      There might be very good reasons why they are seated near each other. OP would have to come up with a good reason to move them apart again.

  33. Jerusha*

    Straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak:
    Adult patients studied during Jan-March 2022, during Omicron, showed 62.8% protection against infection 2-4 months after receiving a 3rd mRNA vaccine dose. (Nearly equivalent results from 2 doses Janssen + mRNA booster; efficacy drops off markedly with fewer mRNA doses or with Janssen alone)
    Adult patients, Dec 2021-March 2022 (likewise during Omicron) showed 90% protection against hospitalization with 3 mRNA vaccine doses

    So vaccination makes a significant reduction in rates of infection and an immense reduction in rates of hospitalization. It’s certainly not the panacea that we all hoped it would be, and the initial numbers seemed to indicate it might be, but it’s still far, far better than nothing.

  34. analyst*

    I mean….if you live with a vulnerable person, you should be masking even if everyone around you is vaccinated! (I’m vulnerable myself, so I know the precautions quite well). So…probably little need to beat yourself up about being unable to share confidential info…

  35. Esprit de l'escalier*

    I feel like vaccination status — the new employee’s or anyone’s — is kind of a red herring. Anyone can get Covid and therefore can transmit it, regardless of vaxx status. I know a number of thoroughly vaxx’ed people who got it, mostly from their school-age kids or after traveling. Probably we all know a number of such cases.

    Anyone with a reason to be extra cautious should not count on the people who are around them all day to be safe, and should take their own precautions (masking, distancing, asking for air filters, etc). You have to assume that any of your coworkers could have come to work with Covid today, and protect yourself accordingly.

    1. Venus McFlytrap*

      It’s also a red herring because covid’s not the only nasty thing you can pick up at work – the flu would be just as dangerous, and that’s just one example! So even if everyone were fully vaxxed *and* the vaccine were more effective, this employee would *still* need to be extra careful because it’s flu season (and “children’s” viruses like RSV don’t actually only affect kids).

  36. New Jack Karyn*

    Thank you for doing your best on the vaccine. You had a strong reaction to the first one, and still went and got the second one. You’re my hero of the day.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      Oops! This was supposed to be a reply to someone’s comment above. If I could remove it, I would.

  37. Empress Ki*

    If there is no vaccination policy, you can’t tell him. That’s your employee private medical information.
    We are constantly exposed to unvaccinated people anyway. In shops, transports, leisure centres etc….It’s sadly unavoidable unless we live in a bunker.

  38. Six for the Truth*

    Oh, this one hit home. I am currently really aggressively looking for a new job in large part because my current job forces me to work on-site for full work days at a client office where nobody masks, there is no vax mandate, and the sick leave policies are so cruel and miserly that I have sat about fifteen feet from someone who was miserable, feverish, and coughing all day.

    As soon as I’m not at this job I plan to shout from the rooftops about how anti-vax and anti-worker-safety they’ve been.

    As I said upthread, every vax mandate I’ve seen has included exemptions for people who are unable to get vaxxed for medical or religious reasons. Selfish jerks who endanger everyone around them by declining to get vaxxed are morally as foul as drunk drivers, and I have zero desire to work with or near any of them for another second. If I didn’t have rent to pay, I’d be gone already.

    1. Six for the Truth*

      All of which is to say: OP, you’re working in a plague pit, and if you can find a less evil job, you should.

  39. The OTHER Other*

    I question why this employer is “screening” re: vaccination status while hiring people who are unvaccinated and not doing anything to mitigate any of the associated risks. What is the point of asking about Covid and vaccination status if the result of getting this info means you literally do nothing?

    All you have accomplished is opening up the company to immense potential liability for knowingly hiring someone who is unvaccinated and spreading it to coworkers.

    Either USE this information to promote health, or don’t collect it at all.

  40. MillenialHR*

    I think there are just so many unknowns in this and the comments I’ve read are emotionally heightened – because this is an emotional issue, otherwise LW wouldn’t have asked! We don’t know if New Guy tried to get the vaccine and perhaps had a bad reaction and his doctor told him he shouldn’t try for the next dose, or if he’s an anti-vaxxer. We don’t know if the family members of Current Employee’s family had a discussion about risk and what risks they may be willing to take, including not masking when you don’t know the vaccine status of anyone around you.

    I think the recommendation to remind the entire company that flu, RSV, pneumonia, bronchitis, etc., are also very bad this year (I work in a hospital, so I’ve seen the numbers and devastating effects) and remind employees precautions can be taken and hand sanitizer is available, wash your hands, etc.

    Ultimately, we choose to take risks every day – driving in a car, walking on a sidewalk, drinking a too hot coffee – and we have no idea what ideology NP and CE have. I personally am vaxxed but it was recommended by my doctor not to get boosted because of the side effects from the vaccine and if that changes, I’ll go get my appropriate boosters to lower my risk and protect others around me. I never thought I’d be in a position where the effects were too much, but I had to switch to a different flu vaccine for this year, because the covid vaccines affected how my body reacts to flu now.

    All that to say we don’t know individual circumstances.

  41. A Pound of Obscure*

    Everyone, Alison included, would do well to understand that c-19 vaccinations DO NOT prevent transmission. Researchers now know that the virus simply mutates too quickly, which means one’s immune system cannot create antibodies fast enough to prevent infection. In other words, it is entirely possible, and probably quite common, for a person to get vaccinated, then become infected, and then spread it to others — even when that person has no symptoms and did everything “right.” Even the CDC has acknowledged this; several prominent people at the front lines of public policy have themselves had “breakthrough” infections after being vaccinated and boosted. It is wrong to continue characterizing this as a disease of the unvaccinated or demonizing people who didn’t follow exactly the same vaccination schedule as you did. It doesn’t work that way, and now that we’ve had vaccines for almost two years, we have the data to show this. At-risk family members should take their own common-sense precautions to avoid infection, including being vaccinated and boosted themselves, avoiding crowded indoor gatherings, and so on.

    1. Mekong River*

      They don’t entirely prevent transmission, but they do reduce the likelihood of transmission. All vaccines rely on having a certain percentage of the population vaccinated to prevent transmission, and the COVID vaccine is no different. I’m ok with giving side-eye to people who won’t (note: won’t, not can’t) play their part in reducing transmission of a disease this deadly.

Comments are closed.