anti-vax employee is pressuring a coworker not to vaccinate her baby

A reader writes:

I have three people who I have supervised for the last three years. Although I am not their official manager, I am the person who handles the bulk of their day-to-day responsibilities. I’ll call them Cordelia, Willow, and Dawn. All three are hard workers and are good at their jobs. They are also friends and the three of them often enjoy eating lunch together at one of their desks most days.

Cordelia has always been kind of a big personality. She goes above and beyond at work but also in her personal life, and is busy every single weekend and most evenings. She is one of those people who just always seems to have loads of energy and opinions. I like her, but also find her a little bit exhausting.

About 10 years ago (before I worked here), Cordelia had a baby who tragically passed away before his first birthday. His death was about a week after he had received several of the usual six-month infant vaccines. Cordelia has blamed his death on the vaccines and is an anti-vaxxer.

She has mentioned that she was relieved that our company decided not to require Covid-19 vaccines or boosters, because she would have had to quit because she absolutely will not get any vaccines.

I don’t agree with her stance, but I’m also not going to argue with a coworker about medical stuff that isn’t a core part of our jobs, and even more, I am not comfortable being overly confrontational with a grieving parent. She understandably still grows upset and cries when something reminds her of her baby.

Each fall, my company arranges for flu shots to be available on site for one afternoon for employees.

My first year here, I overheard Cordelia telling Willow not to get the flu shot. Willow tends to smile and nod, and then ignore Cordelia and do whatever she was planning to do, so no actual harm was done. However, I did speak to Cordelia about it and explain that she was certainly welcome to make her own healthcare decisions and not get a flu shot, but that other people were allowed to, and she couldn’t discourage them ahead of time or criticize them afterwards.

I did keep a close watch on her at the time, and again last fall when flu shots were offered again, and there was no recurrence. I also checked in with Willow, who just laughed and said she got the shot every year. This felt like it was dealt with.

Then Dawn shared that she is pregnant. It’s her first, and she and her husband are thrilled. It’s all really lovely and exciting.


You’ve almost certainly worked out where this is going. Cordelia has been telling Dawn that she needs to not give her baby any vaccinations, even if she needs to fight with her doctor about it.

What is my responsibility here?

Dawn is an adult, though a young one, and she has family and a doctor to help advise her. On the other hand, she seems to be listening to Cordelia on this matter. Do I speak to Cordelia again, like I did with the company offered flu shots? (This feels different.) Do I stay out of it? Do I step in? Most of these conversations are happening outside of work; I just happened to be there during a lunchtime chat where it was clear that this was an ongoing topic.

I’m not sure what to do. Please advise!

Yes, step in. Just as you had the standing to tell Cordelia to lay off about the flu shots, you also have the standing to tell her not to hassle coworkers about other personal health care decisions.

It would be one thing if this had just been one conversation — if the topic came up and Cordelia shared her opinion and then it was dropped. But it sounds like it’s been multiple conversations, and that’s crossing a line.

I suspect you’re feeling more hesitant because Cordelia had a horrible personal loss that she attributes to these specific vaccines. And again, one mention of “I wouldn’t vaccinate because …” wouldn’t be something you needed to intervene on. And if Dawn were seeking her out and asking for her opinion, that would be different. But if Cordelia is continuing to push it of her own volition, she’s in the wrong. Members of your team deserve to be able to go to work without being hassled about private medical decisions they make for themselves and their families.

I’d say the same if the role were reversed — if Dawn weren’t planning to vaccinate and Cordelia kept pressuring her to, at some point that would cross a workplace line too. And just as Cordelia presumably wants colleagues to respect her medical autonomy, she needs to respect theirs.

Shut it down.

{ 322 comments… read them below }

    1. Bananapant Modiste*

      Yes, thank you. Work is not a place to harass colleagues about religion, politics, s3x, or in this case, medical decisions.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes, I agree. It’s fascinating how often people like Cordelia will shout from the rooftops that it’s their choice not to be vaccinated, and people need to respect that – but they don’t extend the same respect to people making other choices. I understand that Cordelia has suffered a truly terrible event, and I understand how that may have informed her own personal choices, but she has no right to bully other people.

        1. Siege*

          People making (perceived) counter-cultural decisions always seek validation in the form of getting others on their side.

          There’s plenty of evidence that drinking alcohol is a pretty bad choice, on basically any axis you care to name, but people who don’t drink report plenty of instances where people who are drinking don’t respect their decision not to. It appears to deeply matter to some drinkers that everyone MUST drink. Same for pot use. Or there was the letter with vaping or smoking on this site just a few days ago and a lot of people felt the need to render their bona fides about how they hate smoking/smokers.

          Antivaxxers also seek the validation of groupthink so they need to loudly and constantly discuss their choices. Some vegans and carnivores are the same way. You can usually, but not always, tell when someone genuinely feels secure in their own choice because they don’t need to talk about it all the time. I don’t vaccinate my cat because he’ll die if I do, based on his previous allergic response to vaccines. I don’t need anyone to validate that choice, so I don’t need to talk about it. People who are less secure in their choice (or motivated by something other than certainty) are the ones who constantly need external validation by running over your stated boundaries.

          1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

            I agree- except for one thing: if you firmly believed you could save peoples’ lives by telling them important medical information and you had first hand experience that that information was correct*, it seems logical that you’d want to evangelize to everyone about that. You’d be saving lives. That said, if you’re one of the very many people who are anti-vaxx and are that way because of misinformation, disinformation, or falling into line with a religious or political affiliation, then sure, it’s illogical to be that hardcore about it. I’m not saying I think she SHOULD evangelize, just that in this instance, I understand why she’s doing it.

            *I firmly believe in vaccines; I’m allowing for the very rare possibility that the baby had some sort of allergic reaction or very rare complication to the vaccine, though it’s more likely not related.

            1. RS*

              Unfortunately people are rarely good judges about whether their firmly held beliefs are based on correct information or mis/disinformation. People who are die-hard ___ are usually die-hard ____ because they really believe it is the correct/important thing to believe in.

              I’ll bet that Cordelia’s convictions are, in her mind, based on hard, unassailable-but-inconvenient facts.

            2. bamcheeks*

              Everyone who evangelises something believes it this deeply though, whether it’s Christianity or atheism or the importance of rear-facing car-seats or the dangers of trans women using toilets. You still can’t do it at work and if you do it in your personal relationships you have to understand it’s going to damage relationships.

              1. Anon for this*

                I was just thinking about firmly held beliefs and the damage they can do the other day, especially around trans women and the author who chooses to use every platform to make their lives hell. It’s not that anyone with firmly held beliefs thinks they’re doing harm. They legitimately believe they are saving lives/saving souls/saving themselves. It’s still dangerous and does more harm than good.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  However, platforms and workplaces that aren’t government are private entities, and in the US at least you can absolutely kick someone off a platform or tell them they can’t discuss something at work. So someone’s firmly held/sincere beliefs can’t be used to harass a coworker. Even if it’s legal to do so, it’s not generally good practice.

            3. Portlandia*

              Most people have the beliefs they have because they think just that, that it would be saving lives, that it would help people. Still not appropriate.

            4. MCMonkeyBean*

              That’s not really a useful line because rather a lot of people *believe* they are sharing correct life-saving information, they’re just wrong. Obviously if they knew their beliefs were based on disinformation or personal experience that was just a coincidence then, well, they wouldn’t believe those things.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                Skin cancer is one realm where I’ve seen this done well.

                Someone will say: “Were you aware that you’ve got a new freckle on the back of your arm? It wasn’t there a few months ago and it looks just like a BCC I had cut off. You might want to get that checked out.”

                Then the other person says “Thanks, I will.” and you both drop it. Now they know, and they can do what they like with that knowledge.

                That’s how you do ‘giving potentially life-saving information’ right.

                1. penny dreadful analyzer*

                  I feel like the salient thing here is “people often can’t see the backs of their own arms and also aren’t likely to notice freckles as being out of the ordinary,” not “skin cancer is an exemption from Things You Can Be Obnoxious About.” If someone started lecturing me about skin cancer every time I deliberately went outside to get some Vitamin D, I’d cut them out of my life faster than you could say “facial sunscreen.”

            5. HowLongTilRetirement*

              Except for people in the medical field, specific instances with specific conditions or children (who probably aren’t in the workplace), most people already know what they need to do healthwise or their beliefs are so deeply held, you aren’t going to change their minds. I don’t know a single smoker who thinks it’s healthy. I don’t know a single fast food junkie who thinks French fries are health food. And I don’t know a single anti-vaxxer who is going to change their minds about it based on a random person’s comments. There would be cases where “I read an article about this cutting edge thing you might not know about” or “Dr So and So just opened a practice specializing in this” would make sense, but general, everyday health stuff-you might believe you’re saving lives, but 99% of the time, it’s information they already know and have chosen to dismiss. (Or propaganda from the “other” side-whichever side that might be-which also doesn’t have a place in the workplace.)

            6. Oregonbird*

              It’s a good touchstone: if you feel strongly enough about a personal choice to evangelize – it’s a subject to share only with your cat.

          2. Kotow*

            This is exactly true. Personally, I don’t get vaccines for myself (or any medical services, actually), and I don’t need any external validation because I’m secure in my choices. The same thing with giving my cats topical flea treatment. Several years ago, two of mine died shortly after receiving it (applied correctly), and one rapidly lost substantial weight. I won’t use that on my cats again because of it, but don’t discourage anyone else from doing so. The only time either of these topics come up is if I’m directly asked or if it was already a point of discussion. In general, people who truly sure they’re making the right decision for themselves and their families don’t need to seek external validation.

            1. Meep*

              I am not trying to be unkind, or change your mind on this one, but this particular topic hit closed to home since I am due in December myself and it was a topic my SIL and I were discussing just last night. My in-laws are (soft) anti-vaxxers such as yourself. They just don’t see the point of getting vaccinated every year because it doesn’t affect them.

              I am not going to comment how I feel about the situation, but I had to lay down very clearly my in-laws were not going to be able to see the baby until the baby got all their newborn shots. (They have an issue with boundaries and would show up in the birthing suite on a good day.) Meanwhile, my friends and family who understand the importance of getting vaccinated WILL be able to see the newborn in the first month. It is a choice they, unfortunately, made and I have to do what is best for my child.

              So long as you are open and honest so vulnerable parties (such as newborns, the elderly, and immunocompromised) know that it might be best to avoid you, I think that is fine. However, if you are not disclosing that, then it is really, really dangerous of you.

          3. Emily Byrd Starr*

            “You can usually, but not always, tell when someone genuinely feels secure in their own choice because they don’t need to talk about it all the time.”
            Not necessarily. For instance, I don’t hesitate to tell people that quitting social media was the best decision I ever made for my mental health (aside from getting treatment in the first place). I think it’s important that people know the dangers of social media, and that for many of us, it does more harm than good. Plus, it’s a subject that often comes up as people frequently ask me to like their page or follow their account or take a look at their photos or what have you. Then, I have to explain that I’m not on social media, and they usually ask “why not?”
            The difference is that when people make it clear that they don’t have a problem with social media and intend to continue using it, I respect their choice and drop the subject.

        2. Bananapant Modiste*

          “It’s fascinating how often people like Cordelia will shout from the rooftops that it’s their choice not to be vaccinated, and people need to respect that – but they don’t extend the same respect to people making other choices.”

          *clap clap clap*

  1. RMNPgirl*

    I would also speak with Dawn and just let her know that personal medical decisions should be respected and if Cordelia is being vocal about not vaccinating, Dawn should feel comfortable shutting that down or letting the letter writer know that it’s continuing. There’s not much you can do if she continues outside of work but maybe speaking with Dawn might help her if she’s finding it hard to tell Cordelia to stop.
    It also might be possible that Dawn has just decided it’s easier to let Cordelia talk about this while privately knowing she’s not going to listen to her. Another possibility, do you know for sure that Dawn doesn’t agree about not vaccinating?

    1. Siege*

      Yeah, I have a nasty suspicious mind but my expectation when people are this pushy about a topic is that they will go underground with their comments. They’ll get better about monitoring who’s listening and not leaving a paper trail, but they won’t actually stop. I think any conversation where you’re asking a person to stop harassing another (in the colloquial sense) needs to be accompanied by a conversation with the harassee that empowers them explicitly to take whatever appropriate action – report it, tell the person to shove it, whatever they are empowered to do.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        Actually, I think the fact that Cordelia didn’t continue being pushy about the Flu vaccine after OP told her that wasn’t appropriate is a really good sign! She might just not understand where the boundaries are because people haven’t been willing to tell her (I’m on the spectrum and absolutely struggle with sharing medical stuff).

        That said, I do think it’s important to let Dawn know that the offices doesn’t tolerate harassment and what her options are if she feels Cordelia continues to overstep her bounds.

        1. Siege*

          I’m also on the spectrum and don’t have any problem not sharing medical stuff, so I guess that’s not a universal definition of our shared condition!

          It is good Cordelia didn’t continue to push, as far as we know. It’s also likely that she feels more strongly about baby vaccination than adult vaccination, given that she didn’t extrapolate the pushback about the flu vaccine to be about medical decisions more broadly. Either way, empowering Dawn may not be necessary but it’s a pretty simple step, and there will be other situations where someone does need empowerment to handle a coworker.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Yep, I agree that Cordelia backing down about an adult getting a flu shot does not mean she will be reasonable about infant vaccinations. I hope she will be! But she has latched onto the vaccines as an explanation for the tragedy of her baby’s death, which means she is far more likely to think of herself as “protecting” Dawn’s baby.

          2. JSPA*

            I read the point as, “some people need clearer lines and/or more reminding than others on recognizing various categories of interactions, (as I do)” not “autism forces people to share medical opinions.”

            1. NothingIsLittle*

              That’s exactly how I intended it! I have a hard time understanding the lines between, say, “Sorry, I was sick last night,” “Sorry, I had a stomach bug,” and “Sorry, I was up all night in the bathroom,” and when each is appropriate. In my life at least, it’s rare that people are explicit about what medical information they’re comfortable hearing and, since my last job worked closely with nurses who wanted all the details, I lean pretty far on the side of oversharing.

              I did not mean to suggest that was a universal problem, just that it can be less straightforward than some people realize!

    2. Observer*

      Another possibility, do you know for sure that Dawn doesn’t agree about not vaccinating?

      That’s not really the issue. Dawn gets to make her own decisions here, whatever we or the LW believe. The LW needs to shut this down not to protect Dawn from unwelcome opinions, but to protect everyone from pressure around health care decisions.

    3. Bird Law*

      I agree that OP should talk to Dawn, though I would frame it differently. As a young professional I think Dawn needs to hear it in a workplace norm sort of way as in…

      “I overheard Cordelia recommending that you not vaccinate your baby. This was inappropriate. I have had this discussion with her already, but work is not the place to interfere with your colleague’s personal health decisions. I believe I have shut this discussion down, but if this continues, please inform me so that I can handle it appropriately. “

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I want to gently push back on this point: “There’s not much you can do if she continues outside of work.”

      It is a manger’s responsibility to shut down one of their employees bullying or pressuring a coworker even if it is occurring outside of work. This is obvious if you think in terms of unwanted contact (a new team member constantly using another team member’s personal contact number for non-work purposes) or sexual harassment, but I’d say it’s true even in the case where Dawn is choosing to spend time with Cordelia.

  2. BellaStella*

    I just can’t with this topic (I am a scientist) so I will be positive and say thank you to the OP for please stepping in.

    1. Veryanon*

      Right? People like Cordelia are why measles and other previously eradicated diseases are making a comeback.

      1. Just me*

        Exactly. This anti vax person is insane, and not smart to take this stance, and really needs to mind her own business when it comes to other people’s kids and what they will do with them.

        1. Quill*

          I have great sympathy while also recognizing that sympathy is not what should shape my response in regards to public health. There’s a lot that would be better addressed for Cordelia outside work, but at work – it is not appropriate for her to be giving medical advice, and that’s the easiest line for LW to stick to.

    2. pally*

      Correlation does not imply causation.
      (although a grieving mother won’t heed this. Understandable.)

      Thank you OP, for stepping in.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I can sympathise with Cordelia wanting an answer, something to explain her child’s death, but I also sympathise with Dawn who is pregnant and may well find it quite frightening to hear about this. Even if she knows, logically, that the vaccines are unlikely to have been the cause, I can imagine she might feel, “but what if I’m wrong and I put my child’s safety at risk by vaccinating her, but then I’m putting her safety at risk by not vaccinating her and leaving her at risk of serious illnesses?”

        It’s not fair for Dawn to be subjected to that stress and pressure, regardless of how understandable Cordelia’s feelings are.

        1. pally*

          Your last sentence I strongly agree with.

          Hopefully Dawn has exceptionally competent medical persons with whom to have conversations about these things.

        2. teacherandhiker*

          I agree. I am pregnant and already really anxious (IVF pregnancy) and hearing people’s horror stories is enough to send me spiraling for the rest of the day.

          1. Bookworm in Stitches*

            You are welcome to tell them to shut up. I was having a difficult pregnancy, more problems developed. A friend kindly took my 3 year old son and I out to a park for a break shortly before I was going to go in for a scheduled c-section where we ran into a person who had to share…I told her to shut up. Feel free to follow my lead. BTW, my sons are healthy men in their 30’s now and I’m a grandmother. Congratulations on your IVF pregnancy!!!

            1. Anon for this*

              My manager is currently going through a very tough pregnancy that is high risk and I cannot fathom why anyone would share with her their horror stories. Right now, we’re all rooting vocally (with her) for her to get as far along as her doctors want before they do a c-section.

              1. SharingNotSharing*

                I grew up with an oversharing mother who would talk to anyone and a (quieter) father with no personal boundaries. I didn’t realize people didn’t share stuff like this as a matter of course until I was well into my 20s. I’m in my 50s now and sometimes struggle with this. People learn these habits early and they can be incredibly difficult to break.

          2. Other Mama*

            I highly recommend leaving this post and checking in with your due date group, if you have one. If you don’t, find one. Having a group of other women going through the same shit you are at the same time is so valuable.

            1. Be Gneiss*

              I second this, as a person who still checks in with my due-date group, and those babies are heading to college this fall. Having a group of people going through more-or-less similar things on the same general timeline as you is incredibly valuable.

          3. Jill Swinburne*

            I’ll just say here that my pregnancy and birth were almost entirely uneventful and textbook, and my midwife (standard carer where I live) told me that the reason you hear so many horror stories is because they’re the ones people talk about. It’s like reviews – people are more likely to give bad ones.

            So I have an utterly boring story that’s barely worth telling, though my child is gorgeous. Look for those. And congratulations!

        3. Observer*

          It’s not fair for Dawn to be subjected to that stress and pressure, regardless of how understandable Cordelia’s feelings are


          Especially at work.

        4. Rat Racer*

          I’m as pro-vax as anybody, but I do wonder where the boundaries are between the OP’s role as these women’s manager vis-a-vis the autonomy and freedom in these women’s friendship with each other. As much as I agree with the OP, it’s unclear how much of the conversation between the three direct reports is directly related to work and work time, especially when they’re all eating lunch together. If Dawn had come to you and said “Cordelia is harassing me about vaccinating my baby, and I want her to stop” that would be one thing. But this feels like a grey area to me. My .02.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I think that in a lot of situations, managers have a duty to step in *before* there’s a complaint.

            1. Lady Danbury*

              This. In a workplace context, your autonomy in relationships ends where it potentially impacts the business’ interests. That’s why it’s ok for a company to have restrictions around who you date in the workplace (people you manage, close coworkers, etc.) when it obviously wouldn’t be ok for them to have rules on who you date outside of work. It’s ok for friends to make sexual jokes outside of work but obviously not ok within the workplace. Many workplace related laws put a duty on the employer to step in or take action, even if they haven’t received a specific complaint from an employee.

          2. Zweisatz*

            I do get your thought process. I think what it comes down to for me is that it’s unclear how often they see each other privately, but they WILL see each other daily at work. which means if person A is pressuring person B repeatedly about a topic, person B cannot get away. On account of the job. So the manager would have an interest in stopping this undue pressure before it becomes a work problem.

            1. Rat Racer*

              Most of these conversations are happening outside of work; I just happened to be there during a lunchtime chat where it was clear that this was an ongoing topic.

              This is what I was attaching to. And my concern (question, really) is that were this not a hot button political and public health issue, would we, the commentariat, have the same response? What if, for example, Dawn and Cordelia were talking about breast feeding versus formula? What if it was about inducing labor or scheduling a c-section? Would the OP feel compelled to step in as manager of the team if that was the subject of their conversation?

              Now if Cordelia were trying to convince Dawn to join her religion or political party, that might be a different story. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m unqualified to set up the right litmus tests.

              1. KTB2*

                What’s interesting is that both of your examples are potentially hot button issues with strong feelings on both sides. They also both touch on pregnant person bodily autonomy, which ties back to the original question at hand.

                I don’t think that the topic per se is the issue, and I think the commentariat has reflected that so far. My understanding is that the issue is a coworker repeatedly haranguing her peers about a specific topic and falling back into bad habits after they’ve been talked to about not doing the thing.

                1. Emily Byrd Starr*

                  Exactly, and if Cordelia were constantly pressuring Dawn about either of those issues and not taking no for an answer, the advice to OP would still be the same.

              2. Reluctant Mezzo*

                Breast feeding vs. formula can get wicked (Call the Midwife had an episode on that with a nun who finally realized her emphatic bossiness had moved into bullying).

          3. Harper the Other One*

            I would say that if Cordelia and Dawn decide they want to get together outside of work to discuss this, the manager has no standing to intervene. But at work, Dawn is a captive audience. Intervening is appropriate and necessary IMO.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              If the behavior outside of work is affecting or has the strong potential to affect the working relationship, I think the manager has the standing to intervene. For example, if two employees have a romantic/sexual relationship, one shouldn’t be reviewing the other’s work even if there hasn’t been a noticeable change in the work relationship.

          4. Hope this helps*

            Your question has a very simple answer, actually: Dawn doesn’t need to be subjected to this at work, nor does anyone else have to listen to it at work. Cordelia is welcome to saw whatever she wants (subject to Dawn’s acceptance of it) while they’re not both at work.

            1. Rat Racer*

              I think that the problem is that there’s no clear indication that Dawn objects to the conversation. She may disagree with Cordelia, she might be vulnerable to Cordelia’s bad public health ideas, and that would be a shame. But I don’t think that it’s the OP’s role to protect Dawn from bad ideas, unless Dawn has asked her to intervene.

              1. Wow*

                I think it’s both ridiculous and dangerous to workplace morale to wait until Dawn asks for the manager to intervene in a conversation that is happening at work in a place that is easily overheard. People already have issues speaking up or talking to management. And I certainly wouldn’t want to listen to someone’s overbearing health opinions being flung about.

                It does not and should not require anyone to complain for the manager to say “Please leave your thoughts about other peoples’ medical decisions at home. Please also leave your political opinions, your religious opinions and any other critiques or commentary about similar topics at home.” This is really not hard.

          5. Starbuck*

            ” the autonomy and freedom in these women’s friendship with each other”

            They’re welcome to exercise that as much as they want OTUSIDE of work; manager can draw a reasonable workplace boundary even if it’s between friends. Bystanders probably don’t want to hear this either!

      2. Observer*

        Correlation does not imply causation.
        (although a grieving mother won’t heed this. Understandable.)

        And also, it is possible that *this* child was actually a victim.

        Yes, vaccines are extremely safe. Even the earliest versions were quite safe. But even the safest vaccinations can cause real harm *occasionally*. So it’s counter-productive to tell people that it “could not” have happened.

        Especially since it’s not really relevant here. The bottom line is that Cordelia needs to back off regardless.

        1. Dahlia*

          Not to be cruel, but it is unlikely for a baby to get their vaccines, be perfectly fine, and then a week later die of vaccine complications with no other symptoms. Something like SIDS is a lot more likely and not caused by vaccinations.

        2. Caro*

          Indeed. I mean, I could have given my baby peanut butter without knowing he had a terrible allergy, leading to his death (this is hypothetical btw!! My babies are all large young men now!), but that would not mean that peanut butter = death to babies.

          I suppose conversely, how to account for all of the many babies who do not die after being vaccinated? Surely, statistically, that is an unassailable point, or are we going down the ”but that’s what causes the autism and ADD rabbit hole too”?

        3. Lucien Nova*

          This is a very kind way of looking at it, Observer.

          My two cents: I, myself, am not anti-vax. I wholly believe vaccines are extremely important for the well-being of not just myself, but others around me, immunocompromised or no. I have, however, had a severe allergic reaction to the first H1N1 vaccine – obviously I don’t remember it, but I am told I had a very severe seizure, and I was medically recommended for awhile years after not to get a flu vaccine. I get them again now and I’m quite well. But it absolutely can happen and if I’d been an infant or young child at the time (I can’t remember the exact year this was, but I was either a preteen or just into my teens) I most likely would have died of that reaction. So you are correct, it is entirely counterproductive to insist it “could not” be a valid occurence.

          You are also extremely correct that it’s not relevant and that Cordelia has no standing to push her beliefs, no matter how much trauma is fuelling them – and I do feel sympathetic to her! She has experienced a very severe trauma that she can’t detach from the possibility of a vaccine reaction. She still does not get to do this to others because of her trauma.

          To somewhat quote Captain Awkward, she needs to get off Dawn’s foot, whether she means well by standing on it or not.

        4. Meep*

          I get it. I got the chicken pox 25 years ago from the vaccine. (Back when they were still using the weakened virus in the vaccine.) However, vaccines have gotten safer and safer, especially in the past 10 years thanks to the mRNA technology being utilized more and more. Hyper-focusing on what happened a decade ago as a statistic is not appropriate.

        5. Boof*

          Honestly, we have tons of evidence that vaccines that are approved and recommended or one of the safest, cheapest and most effective public health interventions we have. So by recommending not to do it she is actually ignoring tons of scientific evidence in favor of whatever happened be it a real side effect or imagined.

  3. Hyaline*

    It’s probably also a very good idea to set this boundary now because I imagine that Cordelia is one of those people with opinions about everything when it comes to babies, childbirth,
    feeding and all things raising children. Set the expectation now that pushy, over the line lecturing has no role in the workplace— you can certainly fall back on plenty of work related reasons that don’t call out her particular opinions as the problem, including loss of productivity, making others including bystanders uncomfortable, and disintegrating team cohesion over non-work issues.

    1. JP*

      This is an excellent point. Dawn could end up being subjected to criticisms of the food she eats, use of formula, epidurals, etc. I don’t want to imagine the pain Cordelia’s been through, but the “if I had done this differently, my child would still be alive” rhetoric would be triggering a lot of anxiety for me if I were in Dawn’s position.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Especially as anti-vaxxers are lumping the vitamin K shot for newborns in with vaccines and that’s such a safe and easy way to protect newborns (who don’t have enough of their own vitamin K yet to help with blood clotting issues) from possibly fatal hemorrhages.

      (No, breast milk does not have enough to make up the difference.)

    3. anonymparent*

      I also suspect that at a certain point it starts to create liability for the employer. I’ve had a bunch of people tell me that my child is autistic because I vaccinated him, and if a colleague told me that at work, hoooooo boy would I be escalating to HR about a hostile work environment VERY FAST. And imagine if an autistic colleague overheard that?

      I understand Cordelia went through a terrible loss and I sympathize, but this strain of antivax thought get very discriminatory towards people with disabilities very, very fast.

      1. MsM*

        If I or a loved one had an autoimmune issue and got sick after a vocally anti-vax coworker came in with a cough, I’d have a tough time resisting the urge to point fingers.

      2. Mostly Managing*

        Someone tried that line on me – “Your kid is autistic because of vaccines.”

        I pointed out that we got the ASD diagnosis before she’d had *any* vaccines. (We vaccinated on a very delayed schedule due to extended family allergies to vaccine ingredients and under advice from our family doctor. )

        Kid is 14 now. She says that given how many scientists and researchers have ASD, it seems likely that autism causes vaccines, not the other way around! :)

        1. Lucien Nova*

          As another person with ASD that was definitely there before any vaccines were in the picture, I like the cut of your kid’s jib. :)

        2. Boof*

          I wonder how much resources that could go to things that are actually helpful for autism we have to spend to actually convince people that vaccines don’t cause autism. It think that’s been pretty exhaustively debunked and it’s sad to me people still want to believe the small studies with clear conflict of interest and other folks with obvious ulterior motives (does anyone who really push this nonsense NOT shill their own home remedy?)
          Yes I know the answer is you actually can’t convince them and they won’t believe the science, they’ll believe their emotions and whoever appeals to them the most. But it’s frustrating to see the goalposts just move after these giant intensive amounts of work to essentially prove a negative, and the inevitable comments that NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE LINK (omg so much time/money/effort has been done to look into this link and it’s not there!!!)
          *Grouse grouse grouse*

        3. Ineffable Bastard*

          that’s a very smart kid!! Will tell this one to my own kid with ASD; she will love it

      3. MigraineMonth*

        That’s asshat behavior that I hope HR would handle appropriately, but I’m very doubtful it would meet the legal standard for hostile work environment or ADA violation unless they said something additional about people on the autism spectrum.

    4. Cabbagepants*

      Yes please.

      Something weird happens to even normal-cool people when babies and pregnancy is involved, in that they dump unsolicited medical advice without a thought.

      Even if the medical advice were scientifically sound, it’s not appropriate for Dawn to get dumped on.

      (From my family, it was fecal transplants. yup, they have really promise! yup, babies born by c-section, like mine, might receive fewer beneficial gut microbes during birth. and yet, I did not want to be blathered at about fecal transplants.)

      1. Percysowner*

        Absolutely! When I was pregnant I got stuck behind a truck labeled “carries flammable materials”. In my head I knew there was no real danger, but my hormones were screaming “Danger!”. So I turned at the first opportunity and took a slightly longer route home.

        Being pregnant can throw you into a biologic panic.

      2. Observer*

        Even if the medical advice were scientifically sound, it’s not appropriate for Dawn to get dumped on.

        I think that this is SOOOO important. In fact, this is the heart of the issue. LW, you need to tell Cordelia that she needs to back off. Sure, she means well, but it’s not her place. And if she makes you feel “mean” keep in mind that Dawn has more standing to be protected from people poking their noses into her business than Cordelia has to try to impose her views on people.

    5. Nesprin*

      Not to mention that an unvaccinated coworker is a potential vector for lots of horrible things a pregnant woman or her new baby are susceptible to.

      1. RagingADHD*

        This is an excellent point – Rubella can cause birth defects and miscarriages, for example, even though it’s usually a mild illness for adults – an infected person can spread it before they even know they’re sick. Many people need a booster when they’re pregnant even if they were vaccinated in childhood.

        LW would do well to remind Dawn to take medical advice from her own doctor.

    6. iglwif*

      Yes, yes, yes.

      Cordelia will have loud opinions about epidurals, diapers, where baby should sleep, how baby should be fed, how much clothing baby should wear, when baby should get its first solid food, who should look after baby while Dawn is working …

      Dawn does not need any of this in her life. Nip it in the bud now, LW.

    7. EB*

      I don’t think that’s fair. I’m as militantly pro-vaccine as they come–when the kids’ COVID vaccine was released I was there with my children in the first couple of days to get it–but this sounds like it is deeply tied to grief over a lost child and is very specific.
      I don’t agree with the stance, but there’s nothing in the letter to suggest Cordelia is overbearing and pushy on any topic other than this one.

  4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I strongly agree with Alison’s suggestion to leave the right and wrong of vaccination out of it, and focus on “we respect each other’s medical privacy and autonomy”.

    That said, I know I am *vocal* about a thing that only *nearly* killed my child, and it’s a compulsion when the topic comes up because I don’t want anyone to go through even the few moments of horror I endured let alone what could have happened. So I get why Cordelia might feel similarly compelled when she thinks it’s relevant.

    1. Anon for This*

      I once (pre-covid) worked with someone who got guillian-barre syndrome from a flu vaccine, and it changed their whole life, and they were VEHEMENTLY anti-vax. I can’t really blame them for feeling that way, but they rarely spoke about it with others (I only knew because it came up once) so it was never A Thing. Cordelia can feel whatever way she wants, but she can keep it to herself in a professional setting.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Your last sentence – Coredelia can feel whatever way she wants, but she can keep to herself in a professional sentence.

        That right there. Medical advice, unless explicitly asked for, needs to stay out of the workplace. That includes not just vaccines, but weight loss, cancer treatment, broken bones, etc.

        1. Householder*

          I’d even argue that with something as fraught as medical advice, even if explicitly asked, it’s usually better to just say “I’m not a doctor so I really can’t tell you what to do.”

          It sometimes seems like people think they’ll absolutely die if they don’t have (and offer) an opinion on everything, but it’s possible to just…not.

          1. Jay (no, the other one)*

            I am a doctor, and I say “I’m not *your* doctor so I really can’t tell you what to do.”

            Even those of us qualified to give medical advice need to stick to our lane. It’s appropriate in the setting of a clinical relationship when I have access to all the relevant info and providing guidance is my job and my responsibility. It’s not appropriate anywhere else, full stop.

            1. Boof*

              As another doctor, I feel like I am MORE loathe to give out random medical advice – perhaps because I actually feel keenly aware that I do not know a lot of critical details without being *actually on their medical team* – plus I already do it for work last thing I want to do is do it socially unless I think it’s really critical (like when my mom in law had a clearcut bad UTI I was ok with suggesting she go to urgent care and get a UA etc)

              1. Michelle*

                I think, “You appear to need urgent medical care,” is perhaps the one acceptable piece of unsolicited advice, at least when it’s correct.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Particularly because even the most accurate general health advice is wrong for specific people. Cutting back on sodium or increasing my fiber intake would actually be detrimental to my health. For my partner, eating green leafy vegetables could lead to serious medical complications. Unless you’re my doctor and know my health history, the best medical advice in the world is just a guess based on averages.

    2. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

      Yeah, I definitely have sympathy for Cordelia. My daughter had RSV at only a few months old. Once September hits, I’m very vocal about washing hands and not kissing babies that aren’t yours. My go-to shower gift is a “sick baby kit”, and I include one of those little signs that say YOUR GERMS ARE TOO BIG FOR ME. We only spent one night in the hospital, but it was still one of the scariest nights of my life.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        Any chance you’d be willing to share the contents of your Sick Baby Kit? I do a New Mom Survival Kit for my girlfriends (chapstick, facewipes, shelf-stable snacks you can eat with one hand, activity books for late-night feedings, etc.) and it’s always a hit, but I always send that after the baby is born – it’s not a shower gift since those are usually for the baby, not the mom. I’d love to crib (haha) some ideas from you!

    3. Silver Robin*

      I totally get that! We want to protect people from horrible things and the death of a child is absolutely among the most awful.

      I think it matters, though, whether you bring it up every time the subject happens, or every time the subject happens *with a new person*. Dawn is about to be dealing with loads of medical decisions for her and her new kid; is Cordelia going to push her stance every time the topic comes up? Because that is obnoxious; Dawn already knows Cordelia’s stance and will have given it the weight she thinks it is due (personally, hopefully none). Cordelia needs to learn to limit herself to warning people once or twice and then letting folks make their own decisions. As difficult as that may genuinely be, assuming she is coming from a similar place of wanting to protect Dawn and the new baby.

      1. Petty Betty*

        Actually, at work, Cordelia needs to learn to limit herself to *thinking* what she’d like to say and then not saying it at all because it’s unsolicited medical advice and it has no business being said in a workplace.

        I am sympathetic towards her pain and trauma as a grieving mother, but as a pushy co-irker giving bad advice, I am intolerant and would be putting up some seriously hard boundaries. Cordelia can save her anti-vax soap box for her facebook group circle jerk echo chamber, not the office cubicle.

        1. Silver Robin*

          I made the allowance because OP states that all three of them are friends as well, so I was not as strict as I would have been with just coworkers. That does blur the boundaries a little bit, otherwise I agree entirely.

          1. Hyaline*

            I do agree that their friendship muddies the waters a bit, and OP probably only has reach to push back on what’s happening at work–if Cordelia is banging on about vaccines (or whatever!) when they are out at lunch or socially outside of work, then it’s on Dawn to draw the boundary (and/or Willow, who does have a role here, too, and if she’s uncomfortable is allowed to put the kibosh on the antivax convo with or without Dawn). But *at work* I think it’s fair to hold it to zero–and it’s obviously gone beyond that point now, so OP can certainly just say “no more” to the conversation.

            1. Silver Robin*

              For sure, and since OP has already overheard Cordelia, she has used up her “once or twice” already. A million times more so at work!

    4. i drink too much coffee*

      Same, I empathize with Cordelia to a certain point, because I’m certainly vocal about not kissing newborns or going near them with any type of symptoms because I almost lost my daughter at 2 weeks old from a random virus (that turned into meningitis in her case).

      That said, I’m also not going to hound anybody if they say they want family and friends around in their newborn phase. It’s their life, and their child, and absolutely their decision to make! She’s entitled to give her opinion when asked for it, but independently bringing it up (if that’s what she’s doing) multiple times in an attempt to change her coworker’s mind crosses the line.

    5. Pizza Rat*

      I suspect Cordelia genuinely thinks she’s helping. Dawn’s pregnancy likely brought back the pain of grieving.

      That said, for all that Cordelia deserves compassion, she’s out of line and this talk needs to be shut down. It would need to be shut down if someone was pushing vaccinations as well. I’m surprised it hasn’t affected team cohesion already.

      I’ve never been pregnant, but every friend I have who has been has told me that they constantly got unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends, family, co-workers, and complete strangers. That needs to stop.

      1. Tess McGill*

        I was going to add the same point – as inappropriate as it is, Cordelia thinks she’s being helpful because who WOULDN’T try to save the life of a child? (and in her mind, that’s what she’s doing).

        It sounds like the LW has compassion for Cordelia and her sad experiences, but stepping in is absolutely the right thing to do.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Pregnant women are constantly bombarded with unsolicited advice from people who genuinely think they are helping.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I had one coworker try to tell me not to carry my laptop around in its case when I was pregnant. My doctor didn’t have me on any restrictions as far as lifting, there was no reason. The laptop was not made of a black hole. It was just a normal laptop.

          OP, another reason to cut this off at least at work: initially I would have rebuffed or ignored Cordelia, but given *my* personal and family history, at some point I would have blown up at her. Dawn may not! Or she might be wanting to. Or someone else subject to hearing this might be wanting to.

          Cordelia has said her piece. I’d argue she’s said it too many times, but at the very least she needs to stop at work, and preferably stop outside of work unless Dawn is interested in hearing more of it (in which case, she doesn’t actually need to say it!).

    6. Observer*

      So I get why Cordelia might feel similarly compelled when she thinks it’s relevant.

      Sure. But part of being an adult is understanding when you have bite your tongue and keep quiet.

      It’s the whole “intent doesn’t over-ride impact” thing.

    7. CowWhisperer*

      I’m pretty vocal about the dangers of second trimester HELLP syndrome since that nearly killed me and my son – but I am very careful about how I bring it up with coworkers.

      It usually comes up about why my son has cerebral palsy. I explain what happened and the handful of very vague symptoms that appear like nausea, fatigue, stomach pain etc – but what I always emphasize is that pregnant people should call their OB if they think something is wrong. I called at 2am thinking I was an anxious and overreacting patient; doing that saved our lives.

      If someone is pregnant and the convo comes up – I give a fast rundown – but really emphasize that calling an OB is totally normal and covering calls at 3am Thanksgiving night is part of their job.

      If we’re close, I mention that I may be a bit distracted or busier than normal when they are 24-26 weeks pregnant. That’s all on me; I occasionally have flashbacks or anxiety attacks around women who are in that stage of pregnancy so I essentially give them space. (Yeah, I’m working on it in therapy – but finding something else to do works well.)

    8. Osage*

      Right there with you. That kind of loss changes you, and I think she should be given a TON of grace here.

  5. Princess Pumpkin Spice*

    First, Cordelia Chase would never. OP, I love that you used Buffy for your letter!

    But I definitely think you need to say something. I get that this is a bit more fraught – Cordelia suffered a tragic loss, and your impression that these conversations are happening outside of work can make things extra sticky. But, while at work, Cordelia needs to stop talking about vaccines. Cordelia needs to stop dispensing unfounded medical advice. Not in person, not through work phones or work email or Teams or any other form of business communication. Full stop.

    And then I’d probably have a chat with Dawn, to let her know that she is free to discuss these things with Cordelia off the clock, but while at work mums the word.

  6. Lightbourne Elite*

    I would have a very hard time not asking Cordelia why she’s decided her loss means we should have MORE babies dying tragically, which is exactly what will happen if people keep skipping vaccines.

    1. Lirael*

      I mean, her answer would probably be that skipping vaccines would actually lead to far less babies dying tragically, because she almost certainly believes that the diseases are less dangerous than the vaccines. Don’t get me wrong: she is absolutely incorrect about the relative dangers of vaccines and vaccine-preventable illnesses, and the relative timing of her baby’s death and her baby’s vaccinations is almost certainly just a coincidence. I am strongly pro-vaccine. But most anti-vaxxers aren’t intentionally and callously choosing potential death from vaccine-preventable illnesses over potential adverse vaccine effects- they just don’t understand/believe that vaccine-preventable illnesses are actually that dangerous. I don’t think your question would shake her at all. It would be just taken as proof that you don’t understand her position or THE FACTS!!1! because obviously (/s) infection with measles/mumps/etc isn’t a big deal and won’t harm a child more than a cold/stomach bug/other germs children constantly pick up.

      1. RMNPgirl*

        When people haven’t experienced the terror of vaccine preventable deaths but have seen or heard of reactions to vaccines then it makes sense to be more scared of the vaccines. My parents remember life before the polio vaccine and how terrified everyone was of their kids getting infected. My mom wasn’t allowed to swim in a local lake until after the 4th of July because people thought that reduced the risk (it didn’t but people were grasping onto anything that might prevent it). When the vaccine came out, everyone lined up to get it because polio was terrifying.
        I wouldn’t be surprised if vaccine rates start to go up again as we get more outbreaks of preventable diseases and deaths.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Unfortunately, thanks to Faux News, I think we’d end up with divisions on vaccine rates much like we did with c-19 if we got more outbreaks of preventable diseases and deaths.

          It would split down party lines more or less, and certain… religious outliers (US extremists, for example). We’d have media personalities claiming that getting (and surviving) the outbreak was an example of “rugged individualism” or “patriotism” or even “proof of godliness”.

          If nothing else, Covid showed us that we would never survive a zombie virus outbreak.

          1. Potatohead*

            I’ve commented to some friends here and there than I can’t take zombie movies even remotely seriously post-Covid, because none of them feature people loudly protesting about their constitutional right to be eaten by zombies.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              When I first read Camus’s The Plague, I was thinking certain parts of it pretty unrealistic, the way people kept on going to the theatre and didn’t take the risk seriously until a performer collapsed during a performance, the way people who were away from home came back into a plague-stricken city to be with their loved ones. Yeah…those things really don’t seem unrealistic now.

            2. Petty Betty*

              Shaun of the Dead was somewhat spot on with its ending. The sensationalized talk show of “he’s my husband and I love him!”, the zombies being used as trolley-pushers (being dead won’t stop you from being useful to rampant capitalism!), and the news anchor centering himself and HIS feelings during the reports during the initial outbreak.

        2. Heart&Vine*

          That’s one of the worst things about the best thing that’s ever happened to us (vaccines). You’ll never be able to tell when a vaccine has saved your life because you won’t get sick!

          If people could actually see the numbers of how many lives vaccines have saved vs those who have had negative side effects due to a vaccine I think we’d have far fewer anti-vaxxers.

          1. Meep*

            I want to agree with you, but I have “soft” anti-vaxxer in-laws and very much doubt that it will work even then.

            By that I mean, they don’t see the point of getting booster shots (and worried about the COVID shot not being “vetted” despite using 20+ year old technology), because it doesn’t /affect them/ because it is “just the flu”.(Nevermind that a few of them are in atrocious health to the point the flu could very well kill them.) You are always going to have to deal with people not seeing the value of certain shots because of the risk it poses to /them/ vs the greater good until it is too late.

        3. Hope this helps*

          My great-grand-aunt had polio and almost died. She was in an iron lung and hospitalized for ages. She survived and lived a full life – advanced degree, spouse, child – but she was disabled and in frequent pain for the rest of her life and had a frankly sour personality that probably was the result of trauma (at least in part). Polio and other formerly eradicated diseases are no joke, and vaccines are crucial.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I’ve known two people with lifelong polio side effects, most notably one of my inlaws. The physical disability has massively hampered his job prospects his entire life, but I’m pretty sure the months of hospital isolation where as a tiny child he wasn’t even allowed to see his parents through a window were also hugely damaging.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes my mum’s cousin had it, didn’t recover well and suffered paralysis and had a much shorter life with a lot of pain.

              One of mums colleagues also had it and the side effects of post polio syndrome were very painful and debilitating.

              All diseases are bad but it’s a particularly rotten disease and I will think nothing good of people who don’t vaccinate their children against it.

        4. MigraineMonth*

          Both of my mother’s siblings had polio, and her sister was permanently disabled and unable to have children. My mom was the first in line in her school lined up to get the vaccine, even though she was afraid of needles. When people were surrounded by paralyzed children, measles rashes, and babies with whooping cough, they knew how miraculous vaccines were.

          (There was actually a terrible mistake while manufacturing one batch of the early polio vaccine where the virus wasn’t killed and those who received it were infected. After that was investigated and the issue fixed, people *still* went out and got the vaccine.)

        5. Emily Byrd Starr*

          That’s because the polio outbreak was in the 1950’s, when the only information available to the general public had been carefully vetted and edited before being published and/or broadcast.
          In the 2020’s, anyone with an internet connection can instantly make any information available to the public within seconds, so lots of misinformation is spread even faster than the viruses themselves.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      That isn’t what she believes would happen, and most importantly of all her beliefs are totally irrelevant. She could be the Arch Adviser on baby safety and it’s still not her place to try to make another parent’s health decisions. At work!

    3. Observer*

      I would have a very hard time not asking Cordelia why she’s decided her loss means we should have MORE babies dying tragically, which is exactly what will happen if people keep skipping vaccines.

      That’s about as useful as what Cordelia is doing.

      I get the thought process. But to actually think that there is any world in which this is kind, useful, or in the least bit effective is about as related to reality as Cordelia’s thought process.

    4. Broadway Duchess*

      This seems a lot like what Cordelia is doing to me. People are rarely able to separate their lived experiences from “the facts” if those experiences were different. Cordelia isn’t going to hear that and agree that vaccines are harmless; her experience tells her they aren’t.

      Also, it just strikes me as needlessly antagonistic to a mother who grieves her lost child.

      1. Broadway Duchess*

        * To clarify, Cordelia isn’t doing anything to me, but the phrasing of my assessment of Lightbourne Elite’s comment may have been confusing.

    5. iglwif*

      I would certainly be thinking that, but it would be counter-productive to say it to Cordelia, because if explaining to her why not vaccinating kids is far, far more dangerous than vaccinating kids were enough to change her mind, she would not still be doing this 10 years later.

  7. Betty*

    “They are also friends and the three of them often enjoy eating lunch together at one of their desks most days.”

    This would be a nightmare for me lol. I couldn’t handle being around someone as exhausting as Cordelia all the time, including eating lunch with her!

    1. Cinnamon Stick*

      Same here. I’m an introvert and tend to “people out” at about four hours even being around people I like.

      I think I’d last an hour and a half with Cordelia before I’d want to curl up in a pillow fort and read a book for three hours to recharge.

      1. Andromeda*

        Cordelia’s social inclination has very little to do with the actual issue at hand.

        I see a lot of people talking down extroverts in the comments section here like we’re stupid or annoying just for wanting to engage, so I’m just gonna make the point extra clear: her being antivax and her being chatty are not correlated. God knows I know lots of pushy/sanctimonious introverts.

        1. Silver Robin*

          Thank you; goodness the three are friends! Of course it makes sense that they hang out at lunch. That has *nothing* to do with Cordelia being anti-vax. You are just more likely to hear the silly beliefs of extroverts before you hear those of introverts, does not mean extroverts have more silly beliefs.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            Yes, I think people are assuming Cordelia is always a pushy, obnoxious antivaxxer a la social media antivax evangelists. If that’s truly the case I doubt these coworkers would choose to spend time with her. I’m very pro vax but have had antivax acquaintances who were reasonable, normal people as long as the conversation stayed away from vaccines. I can see Dawn and others deciding Cordelia is a good work friend if she’s pleasant about other topics.

        2. Salty Caramel*

          Nobody said they were correlated. Betty and Cinnamon Stick specifically said how they, personally, would react to Cordelia’s general exuberance. They weren’t condemning all extroverts.

          It’s a minor thing in the letter and you’re correct that it’s not the main issue, but people are allowed to comment on the whole letter.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            We do seem to get a *lot* of comments on this site about how awful it is to spend time talking to coworkers. It often comes with the subtext that things extroverts commonly do (say good morning, engage in small talk, invite you to join them for lunch, order cake for someone’s birthday, organize a bowling night) are super irritating and no one ever enjoys.

            I’m an introvert myself, but I frequently do enjoy lunch with colleagues or an optional “team bonding” where we all make candles or whatever. It can be a bit disheartening to hit an entire wall of comments saying that just saying “hi” or asking someone to lunch makes me an obnoxious person.

            1. Bast*

              I haven’t really seen many comments that go to that extreme where they claim saying “hi” makes someone obnoxious; usually what I see are people wishing that their more extroverted friends understood that sometimes they just need time to recharge/quiet time and their desire to have that need be respected without someone jump to the conclusion that it’s personal.

          2. Andromeda*

            Normally I would be mildly annoyed but move on — it just particularly stuck out to me here because it’s SO far from being the main issue that it reads like it’s insinuating a correlation, not to mention that the person we’re talking about just lost a baby. All this grief and anxiety in the question, and all we can talk about is how much we’d rather be reading books than talking to colleagues at lunch?

            I’ve also 100% seen posts on here condemning all extroverts before, specifically in terms which imply that we are all pushy and obnoxious and insinuate that we’re stupid (all talk and nothing to say, that kind of thing). So I’m less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes they seem to want to hang out at lunch. The problem really isn’t Cordelia being a chatty extrovert, it’s the fact she’s trying to give medical advice.

              None of the others have indicated they don’t want to hang out with her.

        3. allathian*

          Yes, this. I’m an introvert on a very liberal hybrid schedule, but I sometimes go to the office even when my job doesn’t require me to do so just to socialize with my coworkers. With my manager’s approval. I get far more work done at home.

          I’m exhausted after a day at the office surrounded by other people, and I generally take a nap when I get home. But the next day when I’m WFH again, I’m generally even more productive than usual. Going to the office occasionally to socialize with friendly coworkers is great for my mental health and wellbeing at work. If nothing else, the period of mandatory WFH during the early pandemic taught me that while I enjoy WFH, I wouldn’t want to work remotely 100%.

          I’m also lucky in that I’m in Finland, generally considered a haven for introverts, so nobody’s ever questioned my need for frequent solitude, certainly not as an adult.

          I’m a chatty introvert and I like people a lot, and my work persona reads a lot less introverted than my private self. Some of my introverted coworkers have refused to believe I’m an introvert until I tell them about my naps after in-office days.

          One of my pet peeves is the way some people conflate introversion and social anxiety or misanthropy.

          Dawn and Cordelia are friends. Clearly a manager has no say in how coworkers conduct their friendship outside of work, but they can certainly tell Dawn her anti-vaxx comments are inappropriate at work.

  8. CityMouse*

    My Dad’s a retired neurodevelopmental pediatrician, he’s literally an expert on brain development. Every single one of his kids and grandkids is fully vaccinated. Cordelia’s actions could cause serious harm, as diseases like whooping cough can be absolutely fatal and are making a comeback because of antivaxxers. my son’s pediatrician will dismiss you from the practice if you refuse vaccines (studies show this is effective in getting people to vaccinated and it protects the young babies in the waiting room from exposure).

    I would 100% push back.

    1. Serious Pillowfight*

      Plus, I know there are religious exemptions, but are these parents all planning to homeschool their children? From what I understand (not a parent), don’t most or all kindergarteners have to be vaccinated to even enroll in school? My large public university also required proof of certain vaccinations to enroll there. Maybe private schools differ.

      1. CityMouse*

        I’ve had to provide vaccine records to my son’s daycare, preschool, summer camp, and elementary school.

        1. Professional child wrangler*

          Yes. In CA at least, all children entering daycare are subject to the same vaccination requirements as schoolchildren, and the state has really clamped down on exceptions.

      2. Siege*

        You may be surprised to learn how much headway antivaxxers have made legislatively, then. My state – not one known for catering to lunatics – allows a “philosophical objection” as a reason not to vaccinate. 15 states do. And I believe that number has declined in recent years as legislators have gotten around to closing that loophole. But it all assumes you can’t just find an antivaxx doctor who will lie on the form for you, and of course that info is being shared. Antivaxxers are typically much more aware of legislative processes and the power of “whisper campaigns” than pro-vaxxers, so they’re good at shoving an agenda into law.

        1. Coffee Protein Drink*

          It’s terrifying. I’ve done some reading on it myself. I knew of small pockets of religious communities who have had measles breakouts. I later learned that many of the anti-vax crowd are upper middle class and college-educated.

          1. Professional child wrangler*

            Yeah. In CA it’s basically impossible to get an exemption now, except if the child has a legit medical reason.

      3. Friday Hopeful*

        Many get “religious exemptions.” Often I think that they are not actually religiously against it but use that as a reason. Personally I think for a religious exemption you should have to get a note from you religious leader. Having to ask a priest for an exemption when one doesn’t even attend church (or temple, or the mosque) regularly might make people a little less inclined to use a catch all excuse. especially since there are legitimate religious exemptions, but often those do home school as a community.

        1. Alex*

          Regularly attending a place of worship is not a requirement in all religions and may not even be an option for some, especially in more rural areas, if the religion they belong to does not have a local presence (even if there is a place of worship for their overarching religion it may not be welcoming or appropriate for their individual sub denomination).
          Requiring a letter from a religious leader can restrict religious exemptions to those belonging to larger religion as well as unintentionally legitimise the position of people for who it would be undesirable to be considered leaders.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Measles is making a comeback and that virus is absolutely terrifying. It’s not ‘just spots’ it’s an immune system wipe that can kill and cause brain damage and even potentially lie dormant for ten years only to spring up and activate.

      It’s also the most contagious virus around and the one virus I refused to work anywhere near. Ebola doesn’t scare me. Measles does.

      1. UKDancer*

        My mother lived in terror of polio because her cousin had it and the side effects were really bad and ruined their life.

        One of her schoolfriend died of measles and that was apparently not uncommon. You vet she vaccinated me against everyhting there was.

        Now people don’t see these viruses so they forget how awful they were.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          My mom’s siblings both had polio. My uncle’s legs eventually recovered. My aunt was in a body cast for most of her childhood/adolescence, needed multiple back surgeries and used a walker for most of the time I knew her. My mom lined up to be the first person in her school to get vaccinated for polio (and passed out because she was afraid of needles).

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, the fact that measles wipes out all of your immunities that you’ve built up over your lifetime and you have to start from scratch again is pretty terrifying. The problem with vaccines is that they work so well everyone’s forgotten that there used to be these kinds of diseases absolutely rampant. I also hate it when anti-vaxxers (or those who are “pro-disease” as one of my medical podcasters once said) say that “Well, no one ever died of the flu” or “the measles.” Yes, yes they did. All the time. On the regular. We are so lucky that we live in a time now when that’s not at all commonplace and I hope we never return to that life.

        1. Almost A Shrimp*

          My grandfather died from the flu and I will fight that comment every time I hear it. My grandfather was a pharmacist and a physician who was very pro-vaccine and stingy with antibiotics. He made sure our whole family always had their vaccines. I remember a few Christmases during college when he literally gave us our flu shots just before opening gifts lol. Despite all of this, the flu still managed to get him in the end. And dying of the flu is a really, really horrible way to die, at least in his case.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          Even chicken pox, which as a disease is in the “not that bad for most people” category, causes problems down the road! Ask anyone who had shingles how they felt about it. Everyone I know who had it has said it was the most painful thing they’ve ever had. One friend couldn’t come to work for 3 weeks because of where the shingles outbreak was–clothing touching it was too painful. If you vaccinate against chicken pox, you don’t get shingles.

          1. Deejay*

            During my six weeks of non-stop itching-stinging-stabbing-burning shingles hell, I cursed my misfortune in being born too early to get the vaccine for chicken pox before I was infected with it. I will definitely get the shingles vaccine as soon as I’m old enough.

            Although I did manage to impress a doctor with my greatly increased pain threshold when he drained a golfball-sized infected cyst on my shoulder.
            “How are you taking this pain so calmly?”
            “I’ve had worse”
            “What could possibly be worse than this?”
            “Shingles. Compared to that, this is a minor irritation”
            “Oh yeah, that would do it”.

            Similarly, a root canal made me wonder what all the fuss was about.

        3. Seashell*

          I can’t imagine someone claiming that no one ever died of the flu and me not requesting a source for that “information”.

      3. CityMouse*

        My mom had an uncomplicated case of the measles as a child (pre vaccine) and she can still remember being in absolutely horrible pain in her head from it. She and her sister were kept in the dark because light was too painful.

      4. Hush42*

        My “favorite” ever argument against vaccines was a friend who is now Anti-Vax after her daughter got a vaccine injury- “Measles aren’t as bad as everyone makes them out to be. You know how I know that? I watched the Brady Bunch! There was an episode about the kids all getting the Measles and they were all fine.” I chose not to engage as I really hate having conversations like that but that argument definitely flabbergasted me with how completely illogical it is. If I were pregnant I would absolutely not want to have a conversation like that at work. You can bet I am doing all the appropriate research so that I can make a decision, I don’t need the Cordelia’s of the world to give me their opinions.

    3. Nightengale*

      I’m a developmental-behavioral pediatrician. I have made the decision to continue to see unvaccinated children (although I make sure they aren’t around any other patients who are too young to vaccinate.) A lot of our local pediatricians won’t see unvaccinated kids at all and I find those families just bounce around to urgent cares rather than vaccinate.

      I see these unvaccinated children because they are autistic/have other neurodevelopmental disabilities. Even though they are unvaccinated. . . a lot of them have older autistic siblings.

    4. Cheshire Cat*

      The thing that a lot of anti Vader’s seem to forget (or maybe they don’t know?) is that, even if you have the measles etc and don’t experience the worst side effects, those diseases are miserable to live through. I had the mumps before there was a vaccine and it was awful. You bet I didn’t want my kids going through that!

      1. allathian*

        I’m old enough to have had mumps, chicken pox, and rubella as a kid. I’m very happy I never got measles.

        I scheduled my first shingles vaccine a couple months after my 50th birthday.

  9. Sloanicota*

    I’m struggling to picture the perfect script here. First, I guess, I’d go to Dawn and say, “I’m hearing that Cordelia has been persistent in sharing her opinions about childhood vaccination with you. I don’t think that’s appropriate in a colleague; are you feeling uncomfortable about it? I’m planning to bring it up with her but I can be sure to keep you out of it.” Then I guess, whatever she says, go to Cordelia and just explain that some things aren’t work appropriate topics and she needs to stop bringing it up because it’s creating an uncomfortable environment for others. But if she says yes, be really firm and persistent about shutting it down every time.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I don’t think I’d include “are you feeling uncomfortable about it”.”— people’s instinct in thag situation is often to downplay and say they’re fine, not a problem. I’d want the initial conversation to be more like, “door is open”: “I heard Cordelia talking about vaccinations with you. Obviously your friendship outside work is your own business, but I just wanted to let you know if that I’ve spoken to her before about sharing her opinion of other people’s medical decisions at work. If you find she is overstepping boundaries and you want me to handle it, please let me know.”

      If I heard Cordelia saying it, even if it was at lunch / on the way out of the office, I would treat that as something that happened at work and remind her that other people’s medical decisions are their own.

      I would be willing to handle it even if it was solely happening outside the workplace, since it would still affect the work relationship and Dawn might feel constrained to shut it down because of the work relationship. But I think in that case the request has got to come from Dawn.

  10. SaraV*

    I’m just here to say Yay. Buffy the Vampire Slayer references that I get.

    Also, that second to last sentence of Alison’s boils everything down to just one idea. Medical autonomy.

        1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

          To be fair, Goneril sounds like something you might want to vaccinate against.

    1. Not Mindy*

      Yes – another Yay for Buffy references! And I think that the names chosen for the personalities were spot on.

    2. hodie-hi*

      I second the appreciation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer references.
      And of course I fully agree with Alison’s advice.

  11. MI Dawn*

    I work in healthcare and the number of people (clinical providers and non-clinical people) who are antivax is mind-boggling to me. I get all the shots I am eligible for. And my kids were/are fully vaccinated, and my grandchild is fully vaccinated. Yes, horrible things happen and it’s very sad.

    I still recall a baby who died of what was then called SIDS when they were less than 3 days old – IN the hospital, in the newborn nursery, less than 30 minutes after having blood drawn- we don’t know exactly when the baby actually died, only when they were last alive. And no vaccines to blame. This was pre-Hepatitis B shot era and the only shot the baby had had was Vitamin K on the day of birth.

    1. Paint N Drip*

      I am also boggled by the very non-science and non-logic opinions held by people who have the capacity for logic and knowledge of science – working in a medical office for years really impacted the way I see healthcare providers now.

    2. CityMouse*

      They also push turning down Vitamin K which is insane. No downside, prevents bleeding in the brain. My Dad’s treated brain bleeds in infants, kids can be left severely disabled, if they survive.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      The fact is that newborn human babies are fairly delicate and have just gone through a fairly traumatic ordeal. You just never know. But yeah, it’s weird when people extrapolate from a single instance, when you can look at data that shows that the greater the amount of healthcare available to infants (prenatal care, vaccinations, follow-up care, etc.), the lower the risk of something adverse happening to them.

      1. Sled Dog Mama*

        After my daughter passed away at 9 days I remember my dad talking to my pediatrician (the one who treated me as a kid) and him saying birth is so traumatic for the baby it’s really a wonder to him that so many babies survive it not that some don’t.

    4. CowWhisperer*

      I tell people the only benefit to having a micro-preemie is that most vaccines are given based on birth dates rather than adjusted age so my kid left the NICU as a newborn developmentally with all vaccines completed to 4 months.

      An older nurse was cooing over my son that it was sad that he was getting shots while he was getting his 4 months shots. I looked at her and said, “Diphtheria would hurt much more and require far more shots and IVs. Our family trades off the mild discomfort of immunizations to avoid terrible illness. ”

      She agreed – and we all shared stories about family members who died of or suffered severe disabilities from diseases we can prevent with immunizations.

  12. Strawberry Snarkcake*

    I feel for Cordelia, but on the other hand unsolicited medical advice from (unqualified) coworkers really stinks. I 100% always shut this down when it comes up with my team, even when it’s well intended. Heaven forbid Dawn follows Cordelia’s advice and her child succumbs to the measles; I think it would be very difficult to continue to work with someone who may have contributed to the demise of my child.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      unsolicited medical advice from (unqualified) coworkers really stinks

      It also stinks from qualified coworkers. Being a medical professional doesn’t make them YOUR medical professional.

      1. Someone Online*

        Yeah, I work in public health. I don’t ask the vaccination status of my coworkers.

  13. MPerera*

    I wonder if Cordelia would feel at all responsible if Dawn took her advice and the baby got measles or whooping cough as a result.

    1. Managing While Female*

      Wow — so I don’t agree with anti-vaxxers and highly-unlikely that the death of Cordelia’s daughter was the result of the vaccines. It was likely a very unfortunate coincidence. That said, she’s a grieving mother and is suffering through some major trauma. Let’s have a little compassion. She’s not correct about the vaccines and her manager should speak to her about not inserting herself into other’s medical situations, but I don’t believe that Cordelia is a bad person or her manager is a bad manager because this is a very sensitive situation.

    2. Genevieve*

      Cordelia is, tragically, one of many parents who has turned to vaccines as an explanation for a terrible thing that happened to her. That narrative is out there and it provides a sense of solace and gives meaning to something that is otherwise a tragic mystery.

      I’m as mad as anyone else with young children in a pandemic about the resurgence of vaccine -preventable diseases, but that kind of attitude isn’t getting us anywhere. Vaccine hesitance is real and can’t be dismissed. We have to engage in good faith and try to understand how and why people decide not to vaccinate.

      So to bring this back to OP, Alison is right. She has a duty to shut it down, but she’d have a duty to shut it down if it went the other way, too. She shouldn’t let Cordelia’s personal history get in the way of doing what’s right by Dawn, but she also needs to be diplomatic in shutting it down.

      1. Andromeda*

        Why are vaccines such a point of contention for so many people? Is it just Wakefield’s influence? The misinformation I’ve seen is almost never to do with the actual specific characteristics of a vaccine (like, I rarely see people say “vaccines are the real disease that doctors deliberately infect you with”, even though that is *teeeeeeechnically* true) so I can just as easily imagine something like injecting insulin being a hot button topic for medical conspiracy theories.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Oprah and Jenny McCarthy is part of the reason.

          Mother Jones has a good article on it.

        2. Nonsense*

          It’s something that people can marginally control, I think. Much like how people are convinced that if they eat specific foods and follow specific routines then they’ll never get sick with cancer – in the face of the unrelenting randomness of the world, they grasp onto whatever they can control.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I think control is a lot of it. Finding patterns and narratives in randomness. If you believe the world is run by lizard people, well at least *somebody* competent is in charge.

            Also, whenever you present people with a decision, there’s a strong tendency to *do nothing*. Especially when there are real (though very unequal) risks to either course of action. So a lot of people who aren’t hard-core anti-vax decide to wait. Maybe there will be new research, or the potential adverse effects will be less risky for the child, or they can finally talk the child’s other parent around…

        3. Tuckerman*

          1. Wakefield and those who provided a platform for his fake findings.
          2. Vaccines are administered during a period when lots of things can go wrong or start to manifest (e.g., a developmental disorder is more likely to be diagnosed at 2 than 20) so people make false connections.
          3. A small number of licensed healthcare providers are anti-vax
          4. Finally, no medical procedure or medication is without risk. The public health messaging the vaccines are safe (vs. that they have a huge benefit and with extremely low risk) fuels anti-vax fire because they can point to instances where it wasn’t safe for a rare individual.

          1. Observer*

            Finally, no medical procedure or medication is without risk. The public health messaging the vaccines are safe (vs. that they have a huge benefit and with extremely low risk) fuels anti-vax fire


            It’s always a mistake to use absolutes in these types of cases. Because all you need is ONE exception to “prove” that the speaker is dead wrong.

            To take Covid vaccines. Yes, they have and *excellent* safety profile. VERY low risk, and the more effective ones have absolutely saved an enormous amount of lives. But to say that they have no risk? Nonsense, and it puts people at risk.

            In fact, 11 women in the US are dead because of this kind of thinking. The adenovirus vaccines (J&J and Astrazeneca) have a specific risk factor for women of a certain age. This is a known thing – it’s apparently an issue that comes us with all adenovirus based vaccines, and at least one woman died because of this during the Astrazeneca trials in Europe. But (apparently in order to keep up the charade of “completely safe”) this information was not included in the information given to doctors. Thus when women developed the symptoms of HIT / VITT they were not properly treated. Had they gotten the correct treatment, they would almost certainly have survived, which makes this really infuriating.

            Having said that, over all, is the risk of VITT so much lower than the risk of Covid for that cohort that it still makes sense to use the vaccine if you can’t get an mRNA vaccine? Absolutely. And if you present it that way, most people will hear. Those that won’t, won’t listen anyway.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I don’t think it was a very successful or long-lived charade, if that’s what it was. So far as I know Astrazeneca was never available in the US. I’m pretty sure was one of the last people in the US to receive J&J because as soon as a few women of a certain age died, they stopped administering J&J vaccines *at all* to *anyone* in the US.

              I’m not saying that the messaging didn’t need work. Obviously it did! But when doctors say vaccines are “safe”, I think they mean it the same way they mean Tylenol is “safe” (i.e. the active ingredient only kills between 150-500 people in the US per year).

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              I read a suggestion somewhere that one of the reasons that Ireland had a very high take-up of the covid vaccine might have been partly due to how quickly the Astrazeneca vaccine was pulled back in 2021 when there were concerns about it, as it reassured people that risks were being taken seriously.

        4. Lab Boss*

          My hunch: Wakefield landed at just the right time to fuel anti-vaccine sentiment. His claims showed up at around the same time we started seeing more children diagnosed with more mental/emotional/behavioral conditions, so it was easy to conclude he was right and they must be vaccine-related. (Note: This assumption ignores the fact that when you get better at observing and diagnosing an “invisible” disorder, of course you start having more diagnoses.)

          Once it was entrenched through that lucky correlation, it became a countercultural view to have, and something that people could latch onto as an established belief that went in the face of “the establishment,” drawing in regular contrarians and conspiracy theorists. COVID gave it a boost, because everything must be politicized so a good chunk of the country decided to be anti-vaccine because “the other side” was pro-vaccine.

          Also, pro-vax people (of whom I’m one) aren’t blameless here. Too many people dismiss anti-vax opinions by acting as though vaccines are absolutely without risk (not true) or that only an idiot would dare to even ask about the risks (not true). During COVID this also was amplified by politics, with people making claims as though only vaccinated people were at all intelligent and anyone who didn’t get vaccinated was directly, personally responsible for killing a dozen grandmothers. When the vaccines did prove to have some side effects and there wasn’t a universal grandma die-off, those over-stated pro-vax claims further fed the sense of conspiracy and persecution of the anti-vax people.

          1. MsM*

            Also, the fact that we were so successful in fighting back against a lot of these illnesses means generations have grown up without seeing how terrible they were. They think measles is like a mild case of chicken pox (which can also be dangerous).

            1. doreen*

              I think that combines with a free rider attitude, where people figure they don’t need to vaccinate their kids and risk side effects because all the other kids are vaccinated and measles and chicken pox “aren’t so bad”. Because I’ve never heard that about polio – people might refuse vaccination, but not because polio “isn’t so bad”

          2. londonedit*

            I don’t understand the Wakefield thing, because he was discredited SUCH a long time ago. And then everything quietened down until social media turned up.

            1. Andromeda*

              I don’t actually see that much “vaccines cause autism” stuff online anymore, but I think his influence might still loom large in the sense that people feel like vaccines are something to be scared of because of him, even though a link with autism specifically has been discredited.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Yeah, I think a lot of people don’t really know what exactly Wakefield said or who he was. They just remember “there was some controversy back then about vaccines and some doctor said they were dangerous, so I don’t know whether or not to risk it.”

                I don’t think most anti-vaxxers are specifically afraid that the MMR could cause autism. They might think “I heard something about vaccines causing autism,” but I think a lot of it is more a general idea that there was some controversy about vaccines.

                1. Lab Boss*

                  That’s true of most people with most science. No judgement here, scientific literature is really hard to read and when it gets translated for the general public a lot of nuance gets lost. Most people’s understanding of research is “I read that they did some study that said something about…” (and that includes a lot of scientists for any area they aren’t specifically working in).

              2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Oh believe me you hear it if you reveal you or your child are autistic. The number of people who immediately ask about vaccination status after that disclosure is irritatingly non-zero.

            2. Observer*

              I don’t understand the Wakefield thing, because he was discredited SUCH a long time ago

              Most people are not even aware of that. For one thing, his claims got MUCH more coverage. For another, it took *decades* for him to be discredited, and by that time a whole industry had grown up around these claims, as well as other claims he never made.

              A lot of people think that Wakefield’s discrediting was a frame up, and many others don’t even think about him when they talk about the whole thing.

              1. londonedit*

                Ah – just looked into it and he was struck off in the UK in the late 90s. I remember the whole hoohah when I was in my late teens. We didn’t really hear anything of him after that – until social media popped up. But it seems he then went to the US, where he was active for much much longer (in fact his Wiki page has a photo of him at a rally in 2019) so I guess that’s why people still talk about/believe him.

                1. Anon for This*

                  Yep, he had a clinic in my city in the early 2000s, when my oldest had just been diagnosed with autism. One therapist actually recommended Wakefield’s clinic (and yes, did say that the vaccines caused my kid’s autism).

                  Thing is, even if my kid had developed autism due to a vaccine reaction rather than genes from two neurodiverse parents? I’ve met people who had withered limbs from polio. I know someone who’s deaf because their mother caught rubella while pregnant with them, and who is grateful that they didn’t end up severely developmentally disabled or dead. I’ve read historical records of families who lost all their children to diphtheria over the course of a week.

                  My younger kids are all fully vaccinated.

          3. different seudonym*

            I think your overall reasoning is valid, but the “grandma die-off” did kind of happen…just among the poor, immigrants, and people of color. I personally know a single person who died of Covid–and “know” is a bit of a stretch; it was a distant relative I last spoke to circa 1992. But near my workplace a church with a POC congregation put up crosses for every Covid death, and it was over twenty, for a smallish congregation of a couple hundred. This is important, because it means that anti-vax ppl can claim that harms are “overstated” while simply not acknowledging that the harms are unevenly distributed. And some, as I’m sure you know, are frank eugenicists and racists who would actively celebrate this state of affairs.

            To be clear, not at all disagreeing–just adding to your point.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Yes, all the deaths I know about were friends with parents or grandparents who were people of colour and worked in frontline healthcare. And anti-vax sentiments were *huge* among Black, Asian and other minoritised groups here— I live in a very multiethnic area and we have really low local rates of vaccination back when these things were being tracked. There were big campaigns with photos of well-known local activists and community leaders talking about why they had got the vaccine. Our next-door neighbour is North African and told us she wasn’t getting vaccinated because she was scared it would stop her having more children. And you know, there is *zero* room to say that Black people don’t have good reason to distrust the medical establishment! I was confident that getting a vaccine was the right a d sensible thing to do, but also aware that being able to trust that the medical community prioritised my good health and fertility is to some extent a function of privilege.

            2. Lab Boss*

              I absolutely agree!

              To clarify a bit further: Statistically, we did lose vulnerable people to COVID that a higher vaccination rate would have almost certainly saved. I’m talking about the angle many pro-vaccine people took that implied if you didn’t get vaccinated you would definitely be killing your own grandmother and every other vulnerable person you knew. Too many pro-vax people overstated the argument so severely they ended up sounding like doomsayers, and then looking like liars when it wasn’t the end of civilization.

            3. MeepMeep123*

              I’d say it’s still happening. COVID is the fourth leading cause of death in the US, and mostly it’s elderly people who are dying. That’s a lot of dead grandmas.

          4. N C Kiddle*

            I remember asking on social media for advice about supporting an anxious teenager to get her HPV vaccine – we both wanted her to get it, but she was terrified of the needle. I got some useful suggestions, but also one person who told me I should tell her to suck it up, and, when I said that would not be helpful, assumed I was anti vax and harangued me at length about it.

        5. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Wild guess here: I can’t help but wonder how many people really, really don’t like getting shots and going to the doctor. Obviously this is not a good reason to not get a vaccine but as a serious needle hater I can imagine jumping on a conspiracy bandwagon so that I never had to get a shot again.

          1. UKDancer*

            I’m not sure I’d attribute it to fear / phobia of needles. I hate needles and really don’t like being vaccinated and have been known to faint when I saw needles anywhee near my arm.I had a traumatic experience with a childhood vaccination and an unpleasant nurse so I have real issues.

            But I recognise that vaccination saves lives. So I had the ones I needed for travel to Morocco last year and the ones for Covid before that. There has to be more to it than fear of needles.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              I think it depends on the person too. Some people find it hard to admit they are afraid of something, so they seek to justify it. I don’t think everybody who is afraid of needles looks for ways to justify not getting injections just as I don’t think everybody who is afraid of covid tries to convince themselves it’s a hoax, but I think there are a percentage of each group who do.

        6. Nancy*

          That plus people look for patterns and explanations, so will often make connections that may not be real. Recall bias is common.

          Deaths and long term complications are very rare but do happen. Those stories make it to the news, so easy to point to them as examples.

          I do have sympathy for Cordelia. Grief is terrible, has no time limit, and no matter what happened you always think about whether you could have prevented it. I know someone whose spouse did die from the flu vaccine (Guillain-Barre) and they felt a lot of guilt and fear for their kids at first.

        7. Hell in a Handbasket*

          There are two episodes of the awesome podcast Maintenance Phase that do a deep dive into the anti-vax movement. Definitely worth a listen.

            1. Andromeda*

              That’s an oddly confrontational response — there are lots of articles out there by journalists and the like who aren’t credentialed in anything beyond their skill at surveying social issues/talking to people about things that concern them.

          1. ScruffyInternHerder*

            Were these separate from the RFK episodes? (I’m still working my way through those, as they’re a LOT.)

        8. Irish Teacher.*

          I would guess it’s a combination of things. Wakefield’s influence is definitely part of it, especially since people don’t even seem to fully understand even what he was claiming beyond “vaccines might harm children.”

          And I think even much of the pushback against Wakefield played into it because a lot of the response was “there is no evidence to support the claim that vaccines cause autism,” which a lot of people misunderstand to mean “we don’t know either way; it’s 50/50 as to whether it does or not,” rather than as meaning “we have found no link despite numerous studies.” I’m not sure what the answer to this is because it’s simply about people not understanding how language is used in scientific contexts.

          Also, as I think somebody suggested, people want answers. If you accept that things like Cordelia’s baby’s death “just happen,” well, that’s really scary because it could happen again. If she can link it to something like the vaccine, then she feels she has a way to prevent it happening to any other children she might have.

          I also think at least part of it is the fact that a lot of people have a phobia of needles and want to justify not getting injections themselves so at a subconscious level, they latch on to these theories.

        9. Ellis Bell*

          It’s garden variety ableism; “normal” healthy people don’t need doctors. The Mother Jones article Peanut Hamper references how early childhood appointments (that anti vaxxers are avoiding) can make early diagnoses of autism and speech impairment. Well, the very concept that one’s child could be autistic or behind with speech, or deaf, or anything but an A1 soldier is a mind bender for the average ableist person. No, they’d much rather hear that all children are blessed with natural health and medical intervention is unnecessary unless you’re very old, very unlucky or very un-normal.

        10. Double A*

          There have been people opposed to vaccines as soon as vaccines were invented; it is not at all a new phenomenon.

          Now, maybe it seems more understandable when there was no science literacy and the vaccine involved getting cut and having slightly less dangerous pox sprinkled into the open wound, but really the current aversion is just a variation on that fear (also I think we underestimate the role that fear of needles plays in anti-vax stances).

        11. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Part of it is probably that we people think of (for example) vaccinating a child as an action, which might have consequences, and don’t think of refusing vaccination as an action. If an unvaccinated child dies, the parents are unlikely to think “my child got sick a week after I didn’t take her to the pediatrician.”

          For similar reasons, more people register as organ donors when doing so is easy, like a check-box on the driver’s license paperwork, than if they have to sign up separately. Even fewer people will take a positive action to *not* be on the donor registry, because one reason people don’t sign up as donors is that they don’t want to think about dying, and opting out also means thinking about it.

          1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

            There’s also some weirdness around getting the “organ donor” designation on your driver’s license — at least I know more than one person who believes that if EMT’s or ER doctors know you’re an organ donor, they won’t try to save you. This is preposterous, of course, but the people I’ve heard say it are not conspiracy theorists or likely to watch Fox News etc., so I’m not sure where it’s from.

        12. Nightengale*

          It was a thing before Wakefield because it enabled Wakefield to do his falsified research. The framing of autism “taking” kids has been around forever, longer than autism. Like the changeling myths. Autism traits often become noticeable around 12-18 months, and in the 20-30% of kids who have regression that is right around the age for it, and so that was correlated with the MMR given around 12-15 months.

          I did a search a few years back for a study on regression in autism that was done before the MMR existed. And I found one! It was a look at every kid who fit autism in one specific county in England at the time, I think 1968 or 1969. The kids in the study were around 10 years old. About 30% had a history of regression around 18-30 months of age. The measles vaccine was only started in the UK in 1968. What I can’t figure out is why this study isn’t more widely known.

        13. Emily Byrd Starr*

          “I rarely see people say “vaccines are the real disease that doctors deliberately infect you with”, even though that is *teeeeeeechnically* true”

          I did see people say that a few times during the pandemic.

    3. Reading Lass*

      She may have shut it down with Willow but Cordelia’s behaving the same way to Dawn, who is making medical decisions for two. LW is distracted by Cordelia’s family history and failing Dawn.

    4. Reading Lass*

      She may have shut it down with Willow but Cordelia’s behaving the same way to Dawn, who is making medical decisions for two. LW is distracted by Cordelia’s family history and failing Dawn.

  14. H.Regalis*

    For Dawn’s sake, please tell Cordelia to can it. Moms get enough unsolicited advice pelted at them, and this is Dawn’s first kid so she is just learning how to do deal with that.

  15. Nancy*

    Make a general statement about medical autonomy and about not giving each other medical advice, or unsolicited advice in general. New parents get enough of that as it is. What happens outside of work is out of your control.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t think this idea of a general statement will work. I think the OP has to address the issue with Cordelia directly.

      I think the manager can be both compassionate AND firm about telling Cordelia that she understands that Cordelia has strong opinions about vaccination, but that she is not a doctor and is not allowed to pressure her colleagues about their private medical decisions.

      I think that the OP should also reiterate this same thing to Dawn and tell her to rely on her medical team for medical advice, not to solicit advice from Cordelia (if it seems she is relying on Cordelia for advice. It wouldn’t be fair – and would be quite triggering – for her to request baby advice from Cordelia. Odds are, Dawn is not doing this, of course, but if she is, she should be told to not do so.)

      1. Observer*

        I think that the LW needs to make a general statement to Cordelia, rather than talking about vaccines in particular.

  16. Laura*

    Just to add on that there are lots of other medical/health/safety things that come up with babies/small children that people have STRONG opinions about and it’s definitely a good idea to set the precedent the workplace is not a place where you should be having a big debate or pressuring colleagues about their decision and it might be helpful to mention others (ex. formula vs breastmilk, circumcision, baby sleeping arrangements, car seat safety) both to make expectations clear and so that OP is not singling out vaccination.
    (to be clear I am pro-vaccination but I can also understand why in this example a grieving mother would latch on to the vaccines as a cause of her baby’s death and that OP has to be sensitive)

    1. Temperance*

      I think the sensitivity to Cordelia has enabled her to become out of control with her crap opinions, though.

    2. Captain Swan*

      Daycare vs staying home with the kids is another hot button issue in many workplaces. At least is was for me when my daughter was very young.

  17. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    Former virologist here who really doesn’t have ANY time for antivaxxers. I’d have to hand this over to someone else to deal with because my reaction to hearing their speal is pyroclastic to say the least.

    Like with the people at work who had opinions about whether I should have had a hysterectomy/a termination/insert other uterine stuff here it’s simply none of their darn business.

    I get that she’s had a painful experience, but she cannot continue pressuring others to follow her anti-science views. To use an anology – I was in a serious car crash and nearly died. This does not give me the right to shout at others to never drive again.

    1. constant_craving*

      Actually, I think this misses the mark. No one at work should be telling Dawn what decisions to make or how to make them. If Dawn wants to make her medical decisions based on the daily horoscope, that’s no one at work’s business. The thing that needs to happen here is to stop people pressuring Dawn and giving her unsolicited medical advice. LW jumping in and telling her what to do is the opposite of that.

  18. Delta Delta*

    Seems like OP ought to shut this down, and also privately talk to Dawn and let her know that she’s fully within her rights to make all her own medical decisions for herself and her soon-to-be-born child. Dawn likely has whatever her own feelings are about Cordelia, which may range from agreeing with her stance to politely humoring her while they eat lunch. If Dawn feels powerless, OP can certainly step in.

  19. Cat Tree*

    I’ve had coworkers who would on political rants and try to bait people into arguments. I wish my managers had shut them down.

  20. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, you would also step in if one employee was pressuring another, pro or con, on any other medical procedure, right? Cosmetic surgery, bariatric surgery, Lasik, antidepressants, etc – there are zealots on both sides of those issues and their personal views can’t be allowed to infect the workplace.

  21. Pounce de Lion*

    The anti-vax issue is a red herring. Over the years I’ve read many scenarios in which women who are trying to get pregnant can’t bear to be around babies, baby showers, etc. It sounds like Dawn’s pregnancy is triggering Cordelia’s trauma. I would suggest the OP approach the issue with that in mind because the office is in for many months and even years of Cordelia drama if she doesn’t get help. This is a small, close-knit work team. They need more support than a talking-to.

    1. Silver Robin*

      the “talking-to” *is* the support. Traumas absolutely result in people acting in ways that are counterproductive, even if rooted in sympathetic reasons (trying to protect Dawn from the same horrors). But the whole thing about them is that they make a person hypervigilant and over-reactive. Giving Cordelia a heads up that no, what she is doing is not okay, and it is not the right way to interact with her friend, is a great kindness. Similarly, Dawn also needs support, which includes places where people do not comment on the medical decisions she is making for her and her kid. Lord knows pregnancy involves plenty of stress inducing commentary as it is, we could all use a little less.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      It is not the responsibility of the workplace to support Cordelia through her trauma. She needs a therapist, not a warm and fuzzy boss.
      Also, trauma does not excuse bad behavior, especially since she’s been told that her antivax beliefs are not something she can pressure coworkers about. She has been warned and continues to act badly.

  22. Richard Hershberger*

    ” I’ll call them Cordelia, Willow, and Dawn”

    When I started reading that sentence I was hoping for Cordelia, Goneril and Regan. But with what followed, Cordelia wouldn’t work.

    1. LaurCha*

      Please go immediately and watch all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is your mission.

  23. Lasercat*

    I disagree on this one. It’s not actually a work-supervisor’s job to protect their adult colleagues from each other’s obnoxious opinions. Willow seems to already have her own method for dealing with Cordelia’s nonsense. Willow hasn’t come to her supervisor asking for help with this. It isn’t impacting the quality of the work being done. I think the right thing for the supervisor to do here is focus on their job, and let these two grown-ups handle their own business.

    1. HonorBox*

      If it is happening in the workplace, though, a supervisor does have standing to step in, especially because it is happening more than once. While not exactly the same, if Cordelia was making political or religious suggestions in the same way, it would be shut down. While it might not be outwardly impacting the quality of work, there’s no telling how it impacts internal dynamics. Cordelia has a right to her views, but she doesn’t have the right to advocate repeatedly.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      What? Nooooooo!

      It is the work-supervisor’s job to create an environment that is free from harassment.

      1. Lasercat*

        Creating an environment that is free from harassment might be part of a manager’s job. But this person is not a manager. They’re responsible for supervising some of the work done by a couple of their co-workers. They are literally not the boss of Cordelia. They have very limited authority to tell Cordelia how she can and cannot behave. Willow actually has more authority here. This person should let Willow exercise her own authority, and stick to focusing on the work that Willow and Cordelia are doing.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          Literally from the letter:

          I have three people who I have supervised for the last three years. Although I am not their official manager, I am the person who handles the bulk of their day-to-day responsibilities.

          LW has some agency here, as well as some responsibility.

          Also, you seem to be conflating Dawn and Willow.

    3. HB*

      This isn’t just an obnoxious opinion though, it’s a dangerous one. And the supervisor has a duty to make sure the *workplace* is safe for their employees and that includes reminding Cordelia that she shouldn’t be offering medical advise to colleagues. Since they overheard a conversation *at* work, that’s what gives them the opening to address it with Cordelia again.

      I think what you’re focusing on is the fact that some of the conversations are taking place outside of work (presumably because they’re friends?), and the supervisor has no business telling two adults what they can talk about in that space. That makes the conversation tricky because the appropriate message is “You can’t do this at work” but the message the supervisor (and most of the comment thread) wants to give is “Don’t do this ever.”

      Also, Willow is the one who just laughed it off and ignored Cordelia, but *Dawn* is the one who is pregnant and getting the “Don’t vaccinate your baby” spiel.

    4. Ellis Bell*

      Spreading disinformation is not the same thing as having a contentious opinion, but even if it were; the workplace is not an appropriate stage for anything controversial. Most professionals know how to keep things light and would not dream of sullying work with politics/religion/medical advice. Also, Willow may (or may not) have a handle on it but Dawn is up for months, if not years of backseat parenting which is the result of a baby death trauma. That’s not in any way reasonable or okay and it should be nipped in the bud now. Even Willow’s mild reaction is just what OP sees on the surface. For all we know she’s job hunting like crazy to get away from this stuff. The fact that she sees through Cordelia is only going to make her more intolerable. When managers ignore workplace proselytising, everyone leaves but the Town Crier themselves.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      It actually *is* a big part supervisor’s job to step in in such a situation. Just because so many managers fail in this area doesn’t mean it’s not part of the job.

      So what’s your opinion on situations such as:
      – A direct report actively proselytizing?
      – A situation where two coworkers are subjecting everyone around to sexual banter?
      – One coworker policing everyone else’s food choices?
      – That same coworker telling the person in the next cubicle that “fat people like you are responsible for our high health insurance premiums”?
      – One person asking his coworker to take down his wedding picture because he doesn’t like that the coworker is “flaunting his gay lifestyle”?

      Being a good manager means handling things like that immediately. Bad managers classify things like that as “personality conflicts” and ignore them (or they punish the “complainer” which is why few people actually bring things to the boss). When behaviors like the ones listed above go unchecked, the behavior escalates, everyone around is miserable, and you end up losing good people due to behavior that would not have continued if the manager stepped in right away.

    6. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Willow and Dawn and two different people. Willow is not the new parent in this scenario. Yes, Willow has her way of dealing with it. Cordelia also got a reprimand for her behavior towards Willow.
      Dawn is the second time Cordelia has pulled this crap, and she does not seem to be handling it as well.
      The supervisor needs to step in because:
      1. It’s a repeat offense
      2. Dawn has already been through multiple high-pressure conversations.

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      It quite literally is their job to protect colleagues from verbal harassment.

      This is pretty much the groundwork behind preventing a hostile work environment. You can’t let shit slide or you set up a terrible dynamic where bullying is okay and assholes don’t face consequences. Letting “obnoxious opinions” go unchecked is the first step to ruining your team dynamic.

      Your emphasis on them being grownups doesn’t acknowledge the dynamics that can make it hard for adults to speak up in bad situations at work. Adult bosses can take responsibility for making the workplace harmonious instead of leaving their direct reports to fend for themselves.

    8. Hyaline*

      If their chit chat had no potential for causing any issues, I’d be inclined to roll my eyes and let it go. Not every wrong opinion needs to be challenged, etc. But beyond anyone’s personal/ethical view of whether there is real potential for Cordelia to cause harm to Dawn’s kid’s future health, it absolutely does have the potential to create workplace problems–friction between teammates, potential harassment, potentially discriminatory talk (lots of antivax talking points veer into ableism very quickly), taking up work time on non-work related issues, and generally making work an icky place to be for Dawn because Cordelia can’t keep her opinions to herself.

      Do I think the initial reaction would be as quick and robust of a “shut it down!” if Cordelia’s thing was that all babies should wear organic cotton onesies or that pregnant mothers should drink green smoothies? No, probably not–but if she was that vehement on any element of prenatal healthcare or caring for a newborn I’d still say it’s fair to step in and say “this is not helpful, it’s creating a tense workplace environment, please stop.”

    9. Observer*

      It’s not actually a work-supervisor’s job to protect their adult colleagues from each other’s obnoxious opinions.

      That’s not the issue. It *is* the work-supervisor’s obligation to keep the workplace a space where their employees can come to work without having to defend or “discuss” personal / medical decisions with anyone.

      If Cordelia just expressed an opinion that “All people who get vaccination are irresponsible sheeple”, that would be one thing. When she tries to pressure people into not getting vaxxed, that’s another. It’s out of line, and the manager has as much standing to correct that as they have to correct any other issue with the environment.

    10. WS*

      No, it is absolutely a work-supervisor’s job to prevent their adult colleagues from being held hostage to obnoxious non-work talk during work time. Cordelia can talk to Dawn about this outside work, where Dawn can choose to listen or choose to leave if she wants.

      A few years ago, I was stuck with a co-worker who constantly wanted my opinions on the gay marriage debate and had a lot of “just asking!!!” comments that were homophobic garbage in the form of a question so she couldn’t be blamed for it, and you bet I got that shut down. It was affecting my ability to do my job.

  24. CM*

    While I completely disagree with Cordelia’s stance, the OP mentioned a lot of these conversations are happening outside of work, and it sounds like Dawn and Cordelia could be friends outside of work. Before talking with Cordelia, I might check in privately with Dawn to see whether she welcomes this topic of conversation.

    1. Observer*

      It’s not really relevant. Because the discussion needs to stay out of the office.

  25. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    Actually just had a thought – this is really not that different to someone trying to convert others to their religion in the workplace. The person doing it can believe with all their heart that they are saving lives but it doesn’t mean they can preach to others.

    1. HonorBox*

      I made a similar comment above too. Religion, politics, healthcare choices are deeply personal and should be left to the individual. In the workplace it is really difficult to navigate any sort of preaching or pressure because you can’t always just leave a conversation or remove someone like you can in a friend group.

  26. HonorBox*

    I can only think of one very specific example where someone’s personal feelings, influenced by an “outside” circumstance, would be acceptable for them to preach about at work. If Cordelia had a child who died in a drunk driving accident, and she was vigilant about not wanting people to drive while intoxicated… now even as I type it, I don’t think it works, more than just calling an Uber for someone after happy hour.

    Cordelia can have her own views. I don’t personally agree, but at the same time, I would be respectful of her views and realize I wasn’t going to change them. She needs to do the same and leave Dawn, and the choices she and her partner are making with input from their doctor, alone.

    1. Boof*

      Yeah, drunk driving is illegal and a coworker is perfectly within their rights / lane to try to prevent that by any (legal) means necessary

  27. Sparkles McFadden*

    You need to tell Cordelia to shut it down. Then you need to let Dawn know you’ve done that, and she should let you know if Cordelia continues with any sort of pressure. You have to do this as soon as you can because I suspect Cordelia will ramp things up as Dawn moves along in her pregnancy. Pregnant women and new mothers are subjected to all sorts of unsolicited blathering from friends, family and total strangers, all of whom justify this sort of harassment by telling themselves they are “helping a defenseless baby.”

  28. Angstrom*

    Outside of work, you can walk away from someone arguing at you. At work, you don’t always have that option.
    If an employee isn’t comfortable telling an coworker to shut up, the manager needs to step in and keep the peace.

  29. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

    Why does Cordelia have a job? Find a way to get her fired. Anti-vaxxers are an existential public health threat and need to be ostracized from polite society.

    1. Elliot*

      This. 100%. Although I will say – the actual problem is the people profiting from the misinformation around vaccines (looking at you, Candace Owens.) I am SUPER pro-vaccine, but I also believe that a lot of anti-vax parents are victims of misinformation campaigns who are trying to do the best thing to protect their kids.
      Does that make it right or okay? No. They could choose to get information from reputable sources and believe in science like the rest of us. But I will say I think they think they’re doing the right thing.

    2. Genevieve*

      Woof, that’s beyond unhelpful. Both for this situation and in general. I have plenty of rage about the anti-vaxx movement myself, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to….fire someone for giving an opinion? Unless they work in a medical setting where vaccines are required or with an at-risk population, Cordelia is allowed to have her beliefs and also a job. I really hope you’re being flippant/letting off steam, because that kind of rigidity and black-and-white thinking is digging us all further into this hole, not getting us out.

      1. My Boss is Dumber than Yours*

        Considering the other side thinks they can literally kill anyone they disagree with (example 1: Kyle Rittenhouse being a hero to these people), I’m totally cool with us seeing where taking away the livelihoods of people who promote this nonsense goes.

    3. Andromeda*

      Noooooo. People need to be informed of the legitimate risks of vaccination (read: for the vast majority of people, *far* less risky than NOT vaccinating, but not risk-free for everyone). “Ostracizing” anti-vax people or people who are hesitant to vaccinate only serves to make people even more confused and politicizes the issue even more. Plus it’s hugely paternalistic.

      Not to mention that Cordelia is clearly not thinking straight about this whole situation because of a serious tragedy (losing a freaking child). That’s the sort of thing that calls for a compassionate approach first before going hardline.

    4. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, unless Cordelia is in a job where spreading misinformation about health could be an issue (like if she’s a doctor or a nurse or even works in early childcare where parents might ask her advice about things like vaccination), I don’t think spreading misinformation really rises to the level of being grounds for firing. At least not so long as she stops bothering Dawn about this once she is asked to do so.

      If we’re going to start firing people for spreading misinformation, where do we draw the line? If somebody reccommends a quack product, believing it works (like diet products that are rubbish), do they get fired? What about people who maintain climate change is a hoax? People who push MLM products? People who insist smoking isn’t dangerous at all, their grandma lived to 105 and she smoked 40 a day?

      1. VaxxedBoss*

        I might not fire someone outright for holding a view like this, but I certainly would not hire someone if I was aware of it before hiring them. And I would seriously scrutinize such a person moving forward if I found this out while they worked for me.

        I depend on people having good judgment. Some level of discernment about what is important. An ability to think critically.

        Anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, etc. – they have no place working for me.

    5. Owlette*

      This comment is exactly why anti-vaxxers exist. And I completely agree with you that anti-vaxxers are a significant threat to society, but you have to UNDERSTAND why they exist rather than just shunning them.

      1. Tal*

        I fully understand why they exist. People criticising their appalling, anti-social behaviour – which frequently causes permanent disability and death – is not why they refuse to vaccinate.

        Arrogance and ignorance fully explains it.

        1. Owlette*

          And you contribute to their arrogance and ignorance by shunning them from society, rather than trying to educate and unwind their brainwashing.

    6. J*

      I agree. These kind of people have no issue if their selfish choices make it so that I get sick and die. They should suffer actual consequences rather than being validated and coddled.

    7. allathian*

      As long as vaccines aren’t mandatory (except when excused on stricly regulated medical grounds) it’s hard to enforce or justify a firing unless Cordelia continues to harass Dawn about it. Even if Dawn continues the friendship with Cordelia, the fact that the topic makes the LW uncomfortable should be reason enough to intervene by requiring Dawn to stop pushing the topic at work.

      Vaccination status isn’t a protected class like gender, race, age, disability, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation and gender identity.

      But yeah, I’m a fairly vindictive person, so whenever I read about a particularly vocal antivaxxer, I secretly in my heart of hearts hope their kid dies from an easily preventable disease. It’s the only thing that might possibly change their minds, even if I pity the hypothetical kids who have the misfortune to be born to such misguided parents.

  30. Marlo*

    I think OP should definitely shut this down if it’s happening at work, but it sounds like they’re good friends and that much of this is happening outside the office. So I’d just accept that there’s only so much you can do. Plus, you said that Dawn is listening to Cordelia, so who knows – she may agree with her anyway.

  31. The Snarkmaster*

    “Well Cordelia, sounds like you sure are willing to provide Dawn’s child with an iron lung or leg braces should they need it!”

    I enjoy not having polio thank you very much.

  32. Amber*

    I can sympathize with Cordelia. I had a stillbirth about two years ago and have gone over and over about what I could have done differently, what might have caused it to happen. But that’s not work appropriate talk. The OP should shut it down, just because she’s a grieving mother it does not give her a pass to continue to talk about it.

    1. I didn't say banana*

      I agree. I lost a child to SIDS and it’s not my place to lecture coworkers about safe sleep.

  33. CommanderBanana*

    If you have the standing to do this, I’d tell Cordelia that the next time I heard vaccinations come out of her mouth, the off-boarding process would begin.

  34. Elliot*

    As a new mom (I have a four-month-old), I can’t imagine the pain of losing a baby, and feel for Cordelia. But also as a new mom… I know how hard hearing this kind of anti-vax rhetoric can be!
    I have a public health degree, am staunchly pro-vaccine, and love science. And yet. When enough anti-vaxxers spread misinformation about vaccines causing injury or death, it’s hard not to be a little nervous as a mom who just wants to do what is best. My child has all her vaccines, and will continue to get all vaccines, but if the anti-vax scare tactics can make me anxious, I know they can make parents without my public health background super anxious as well.
    I’ll also politely push back a little on anyone who believes the idea that vaccinating is a private medical decision and everyone’s own business. I think this is a great route to go in shutting this down with Cordelia, because it hopefully will be the path of least resistance to get her to stop, but anti-vaxxers’ choices hurt everyone in society. About a month ago, my daughter (then 3 months old) got covid from an unvaccinated person, and was pretty sick. We had to go to multiple doctor’s visits, get her nasal passages suctioned at urgent care, and I barely slept for days worrying about her breathing. Choosing not to vaccinate against things like whooping cough, measles, etc has even more disastrous consequences. Unfortunately, people are free to refuse this life-saving preventative medicine, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an incredibly selfish and immoral action to take.
    And as a side note – as a person with a dog named Buffy, I love the name choices here :)

    1. YourDecisuonsAffectMe*

      Yes, one of the most frustrating parts of the Covid anti-vaxxer rhetoric is that their decision only affects themself. It doesn’t. I’m still mostly isolated because I hit the jackpot when it came to Covid – live in a semi-congregate living environment (apartment building), unable to drive (solely reliant on public transit pre-pandemic), multiple comorbidities, allergies and asthma that mean I am symptomatic every day no matter what (plus chronic bronchitis that appears regularly on a seasonal basis and sometimes decides to turn into pneumonia instead), and I could go on. Oh! I almost forgot the big one – medically unable to wear a mask, so reliant on others behaving nicely more than most people. I resent the hell out of folks who didn’t take Covid seriously and do everything they could do to limit it because their behavior doomed me.

  35. theletter*

    I’m not sure what podcast I heard this from, but in the one and only story I know of where there was a medical issue that was traced back to a vaccine, the family was generously compensated so that they could provide full-time care for their injured child.

    If you think about the amount of people that get vaccinated, and the amount of funding and insurance involved, it makes sense to take every possible failure seriously, and when there’s an injury or death, make every effort to make the patient and family whole while providing information and doing further research investigation.

    This is just to lend some perspective on Cordelia’s pain – if vaccines were at fault, she shouldn’t have to vent about it to random coworkers in the shadows. But the statistics on child deaths from preventable diseases are clear and well documented. Vaccine researches and doctors care about your health, the virus DOES NOT.

  36. HailRobonia*

    I used to work with an anti-vaxxer at a Major Research University ™. Every year when the annual flu shot event was announced, she would tell everyone that she doesn’t get the flu shot because every time she got the vaccination it gave her the flu.

    I bit my tongue and inwardly rolled my eyes, but I really wanted to say “Wow, that’s incredible! I know people in the next building who would love to talk to you! If they can discover how a viable virus self-assembles out of fragments they’ll surely win the Nobel Prize!”

    1. Genevieve*

      As someone who has worked at two MRUs (TM) and has heard a lot of similar comments, I might keep this in my pocket for next time. Won’t use it, but will giggle to myself quietly as I eat my free candy after my shot.

  37. MM*

    Spot on that the conversation does not belong at work, no matter which end of the telescope you are using. However, the term anti-vaxxer makes my toes curl – such a marker of the all or nothing labeling that is causing so much knee jerk polarization today. Some vaccines have adverse side effects; (hence, the existence of the National Vaccine Adverse Reporting System).
    Adequate research, transparency and informed decision making are paramount. While this tragic event, 6 months out, is unlikely to be a result of 6 month shots, parents are cautioned that certain vaccines create a risk for febrile seizures 7-10 days after vaccination.

  38. Sled Dog Mama*

    As a parent who lost a child in infancy nearly a decade ago. Cordelia is overstepping. She has no right to pressure anyone into any medical decisions but you should not have to tip-toe around her because she can’t separate the loss of her child from other’s decisions about their own children.
    In the last decade I’ve had to sit by and watch others make decisions that I would make differently based on losing my child but I can’t force others to do it my way not matter how painful I find it to watch. My daughter passed away due to a very rare and currently untreatable genetic disease. Nothing I did or could have would have changed her outcome, that may or may not be the case for Cordelia but still she would be over the line with a friend, she’s definitely there with a coworker.

  39. MLH*

    Also of note, most parents-to-be are not interested in being the recipients of a constant barrage of unsolicited parenting advice, particularly at work. It gets exhausting. Definitely put a stop to it.

  40. JPalmer*

    Unsolicited medical advice can be quite rude.

    Repeated unsolicited medical advice is crossing the line. A person should not have to say more than once they are not looking for advice from someone who is not a medical professional.

    I would make it clear to Cordelia that this behavior is unacceptable and this is not the first time a correction of this type has been needed.
    We all have opinions and the workplace is not her public forum in this regard. This isn’t even close to things like gender, LGBT, or racial issues where it is something that is pervasive on their everyday life and discrimination related to them unfortunately occurs in workplaces.

    Being pregnant is a stressful and challenging time, so having a likely senior employee badgering you about your medical health or choices is not okay. Pregnant women get enough backseat pregnant-ing already.

    I’d probably also check in with Dawn. Stating that Cordelia isn’t a medical authority on the topic and Dawn should trust her doctors medical advice is probably a safe bit of advice, like it is sharing the general consensus medical opinion of “Trust your doctor”.

  41. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I’m autistic. I’ve had way too many people ask me if I thought it was the vaccines.

    I’m the autistic kid of two neuro divergent parents, with plenty of neuro spicy aunts, uncles, cousins… It’s pretty obvious it’s genetic.

  42. Goody*

    Not only should OP talk to Cordelia and shut it down, but they should also have a brief informal conversation with Dawn. “I heard this happening, I’ve had a relevant discussion (or am actively working on the situation, as applicable), please listen to your healthcare experts in this regard, and let me know if you have questions or concerns.” This way Dawn knows you’re aware, involved, and on her side should escalation be required.

  43. Mim*

    Keep an eye and ear out for any other unsolicited “medical” advice Cordy is offering up. I bet it’s not limited to vaccines.

    Sincerely, someone who has been shamed for taking brain medication prescribed by her doctor, and grilled about why she still wears a mask during the pandemic we’re still in. (My bad for over sharing with a co worker who over shared with me about her diagnosis. Turns out she’s just raw-dogging it with a diagnosis but won’t take any meds. For the same woo-woo reasons she is anti mask and anti vaxx. I’m sure many of you know the type.)

  44. Elizabeth West*

    I feel badly for Cordelia having gone through such a tragic loss, but she absolutely should not be allowed to harass Dawn (or anyone else) about their personal medical decisions. OP, please step in.

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