Dear Miriam | Unknown Vaccination Status Makes Shabbat Invite Shaky

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Dear Miriam,

For the limited number of social events I’ve gone to in the past few months, the host has always offered information about their vaccination status and the expectation for guests. I was just invited to a Shabbat dinner, though, where there was no mention of vaccination in the invitation. What’s the best way to go about asking?


 Vax Ask

Dear Ask,

Go for casual, respectful and straightforward, but you just have to ask. If you received an email invite, reply with, “Can you let me know about the vaccination statuses of everyone who will be there?” If you got a phone call and weren’t prepared to ask in the moment, follow up by whatever form of communication you like, and say, “I didn’t think to ask when you called, but …” followed by the above.

You should go into the conversation prepared with what you’ll say based on the host’s possible responses (all vaccinated, not all vaccinated, or I don’t know).

If the person who invited you doesn’t know, then they’re not doing their due diligence as a COVID-era host, but as long as you’re clear on your response, you can minimize any potential discomfort in the conversation. Saying you’re not comfortable attending a meal with people whose vaccination statuses are unknown (or known to be unvaccinated) is your absolute right, and the more confident you feel in saying this, the better for everyone involved.

There’s another scenario to consider as well, which is a meal where all the eligible attendees are vaccinated, but children under 5 are going to be in attendance. This is a murky, challenging area for the many families who would do anything to protect their children — and the people with whom their children interact. If your host says, “All the adults are vaccinated, but there will be children there who aren’t,” know that sharing your discomfort in that situation, however valid it is, can put people on the defensive in a different way.

You should still ask, and you should still only do what feels right to you, but hang onto the awareness that these kids aren’t choosing to be unvaccinated, and in many ways, the past two years have been the longest and hardest for families in this situation.

If you can’t bear the idea of asking outright, then you’d be best off declining the invitation, either by saying, “I’m not accepting any invitations until COVID case counts are lower,” or simply saying that you’re unavailable. You could also offer an alternative like, “I’d love to go on a walk with you sometime,” or “I hope we can do an outdoor meal together in the spring.” And spring will come, eventually, I promise.

Be well,



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