Here’s How To Ask People Like Your Doctor Or Hairstylist If They’re Vaccinated
At this point in the pandemic, with one of our children still not eligible for vaccination, we aren’t allowing anyone to enter our house unless they’ve been vaccinated (barring any emergencies, of course). That means that we have to find out the vaccination status of any service workers or others who enter our house.
Personally, I have no qualms about doing this. I’ve asked A/C repair people, general household repair folks, and a furniture assembly person about their vaccine status. So far, the majority of these folks have happily told me they were vaccinated, which made me feel comfortable hiring them.
One A/C repair company said that they don’t disclose the vaccine status of their workers, and one handyman told me that he doesn’t share his medical status. As far as I’m concerned, not disclosing your vaccination status is basically the same thing as saying you are not vaccinated.
There were no hard feelings—all that meant was that I needed to find someone else to do the work I needed done. And I did.
Besides asking anyone who enters my home if they’re vaccinated, I ask every doctor I’ve taken my kids to if they themselves are vaccinated, and if their staff are. So far, every last medical professional I’ve spoken to has been vaccinated, and has been glad to share that. (I know that’s not always the case, but I’ve been lucky.) I’ve also asked hairstylists and the parents of my kids’ friends if they and their families are vaccinated.
This Shouldn’t Be Controversial
I know that vaccination is a heated political question for many, which is unfortunate since vaccines are a matter of public health and have nothing to do with politics. We are in the middle of a global pandemic that has caused over 600K deaths. Vaccines are safe, they save lives, and decrease transmission of the virus. They’re the key to ending this horror show we are in.
So, for me, asking about someone else’s vaccination status is cut and dry. It’s not emotional or even judgmental. I need the information so that I can keep my family safe. I don’t want to interact closely with anyone who hasn’t gotten a COVID vaccine, period.
It seems like a no-brainer that we’d all want to do whatever it takes to stay safe, and that includes avoiding anyone who has an increased risk of carrying the virus. However, I know that not everyone feels comfortable asking about the vaccination status of people they don’t know. You might think of it as being nosy, violating a personal boundary, or even violating the law.
Let’s talk about all this, and discuss ways to go about asking about vaccine status in a way that works for you.
Asking About Someone’s Vaccination Status Is Not A HIPAA Violation
I remember asking for a vaccinated handyperson recommendation in a Facebook message group a few months ago (yeah, I know local Facebook groups maybe aren’t the best place for this, but I was desperate). I got a whole slew of commenters telling me that I couldn’t ask about someone’s vaccination status because it was a HIPAA violation.
The thing is, that’s just untrue and misinformed. Asking the question might be frowned upon socially by some, but nothing about it is violating any law.
HIPAA privacy laws have one purpose: to ensure that your doctor or medical provider won’t give out private medical information to others. So, if I asked my handyman’s doctor if he was vaccinated, and his doctor gave me that information, that would be a HIPAA violation—though it would be the doctor, not me, who was violating HIPAA.
Simply inquiring about someone’s vaccination status isn’t breaking the law. And the person you ask can decide whether or not they feel comfortable answering. That’s a personal decision on their part.
How To Ask In A Respectful Way
The first thing to do if you want to feel more comfortable asking people’s vaccination status is to realize that you have every right to ask, and that doing so isn’t being some kind of nosy jerk. Again, we are living through a pandemic, and knowing someone’s vaccination status is one of the ways that we can stay safe.
But that doesn’t mean that you should go about asking in a rude or tactless manner. As with everything else, being friendly and courteous goes a long way.
The Washington Post suggests starting the conversation by sharing your own vaccination status. After that, you can simply say that you don’t feel comfortable being in close contact with someone who isn’t vaccinated. Personally, I often bring up the fact that I have members of my household who are too young to be vaccinated, so knowing the vaccination status of people I come into contact with is important.
Often, simply by saying these things, others will naturally share their vaccination status without you even needing to directly ask the question. But if you need to ask the question directly, here are a few ways of going about it.
Here are some options:
Do you feel comfortable sharing your vaccination status with me?
I know vaccines can be an uncomfortable discussion, but do you mind sharing if you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19?
I have unvaccinated children at home, so the vaccination status of the people I associate with is important to me. Can you let me know if you are vaccinated?
When I allow other people into my home, it’s important that they are vaccinated against COVID. Have you received a COVID-19 vaccine?
How To Process Folks’ Answers
I have found that most people who got COVID vaccines are not only pro-vaccine, but see the value in sharing one’s vaccine status with others. After all, defeating this virus is a group project, and requires an open, honest community-based approach.
So far, no one I’ve asked has gotten pissed with me for asking the question, though I’m sure it’s possible that would happen, or will happen in the future. If someone got testy, I would likely go with a “gray rock” type of reaction. I wouldn’t get too emotional, or start to fight with them. Saying, “Okay, thanks,” and walking away is probably the best approach.
Instead of people saying, “No way in hell did I get the COVID shot,” I’ve found that most folks just say that they don’t feel comfortable sharing that information. My assumption in those cases is that the person hasn’t gotten the shot. And honestly, if they did get it, but didn’t want to tell, that would be their choice. But it would mean that I didn’t feel comfortable doing business with them.
Again, although I totally understand why asking these questions can get awkward or uncomfortable, I also think none of us need to feel guilty about asking. This doesn’t have to be a heavily emotional or charged issue either. Ask the question, receive the answer, and then move on.
In most cases, if someone isn’t vaccinated (or won’t share their vaccination status), there is a vaccinated person who will gladly do the job instead.
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