I’m worried about my young child hanging out with my brother’s family when they haven’t been vaccinated

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

My family has planned to get together this summer for the first time since before COVID. I am the only family member with a child who is too young to get a vaccine. I have an adult sibling who could get vaccinated, or have his spouse or teenage children vaccinated, but has chosen not to do so, and has no plans to do so.

This has put me in an incredibly weird and hard position. I miss my family and would love to spend time with my brother and his wife and kids. My suggestion that he get a vaccine was met with a hard pass so I assume they just aren’t going to do it.

So what do I do? I have heard that serious COVID cases with kids is rare, and I also have friends whose kids were seriously sick and couldn’t return to sports until after EKGs and MRIs. I love my family and I want to see them, but I am not willing to subject my youngest to risk. What should I do?

Wanda says:

You have so many cards to play here: Mom Card, Science Card, Pandemic Card. And amazingly, even with that winning hand, you are still trying to play with compassion for your unvaccinated sibling and his wife and kids.

It would be easy for this conversation to turn sour, and vaccines can be a deeply personal topic for some. So try to keep it generic, and rather than make it about your brother’s decision, make it about your own. Explain that your pandemic management options are limited for your young son since he can’t get a vaccine, so until he can, you are steering clear of big gatherings, even the family gathering,

This makes it clear that this is the approach you are applying to all situations to safeguard your kiddo, which is the truth. COVID has proven to be stressful and divisive, and it’s heartbreaking to think about it coming between friends and families. So as much as possible without judgment, simply express what it is you need and explain why it’s important to you.

Wayne says:

Well, you said it yourself — you aren’t willing to subject your child to the risk. That’s responsible and sounds like the final word on the matter. But before you cancel Solstice Reunion 2021, I’m wondering what your child has been up to for the last three or four months. Have they attended school? Gone to summer camp? Played sports? Hung out with neighborhood friends? Tagged along with mom on a coffee date/play date with her vaccinated friends and maybe-vaccinated kids? Heck, spent hours around their vaccinated-and-venturing-out family members?

Unless you’re still keeping your kiddo locked away in the peak quarantine bummer bubble, they’ve been at risk of COVID exposure. From classmates and teammates, teachers and coaches, and bus/shuttle at school, camp and games. From staff and fellow diners and shoppers at your favorite family restaurant or market. And yes, even from their vaccinated family members — that would be you, mom — who are going back to the office around people who may or may not be vaccinated and reconnecting with friends and their kids, who, like your child, may not be eligible for vaccinations.

So, considering that your child has likely already been exposed to unnecessary COVID risk and is still healthy and happy, does that change your perspective and attitude about getting together with a few unvaccinated family members? There are ways to further minimize risk that don’t entirely eliminate time with your family. It might require some creativity, spacing and outdoor fun, but it’s better than not seeing them at all and it’s probably not any riskier than the situations you and your kid have been around in recent months.