Dear Miriam | Unvaccinated Peer Vexes Student

Photo by Miriam ALster/Flash90

Dear Miriam, 

I am a kid who goes to a middle school where COVID vaccines are not required. I thought all of my friends agreed with my family about vaccines, but one of my friends just told me he isn’t vaccinated. What should I do now that I know that? 


No Vax Classmate

Dear Classmate,

At all stages of life, it can be challenging and disappointing to learn that you and your friends don’t all agree on everything, but it’s part of growing up, differentiating your identity from that of those around you and figuring out what’s really most important to you about your relationships.

Your generation is growing up during an extremely divisive time both politically and socially. The kinds of differences that people might have shrugged off when I was a kid can turn out to be much more dramatic between friends and family in 2022. And when it comes to something as important as public health, I completely understand why this feels so challenging to you.

Unfortunately, there’s probably not much you can do about your friend’s vaccination status. It’s not required at school, you are both minors living with your parents and he likely believes whatever they’re teaching him at home. The best thing you can do is talk to your parents about making sure that your vaccines and boosters are up to date and make your own informed decision (with your parents) about masking at school.

As an adult, I might choose to stop spending time with someone who told me they weren’t vaccinated, but in a school environment, that’s much more challenging. You might decide not to meet up with this friend outside of school anymore. You might ask him if he would get vaccinated if it were his choice, just so you have more information about his thought process. If (and this is a big and unlikely if!) he says he wishes his parents would let him, encourage your friend to talk to a teacher or the school nurse, since they may have resources to help him talk to his parents about this issue.

I started by saying it’s a hard part of growing up to realize you don’t always agree with your friends about everything, and I’ll end by saying it’s an even harder part of growing up to realize that most of the time, you can’t change other people’s minds. This may be the first time you’ve had an experience like this, but it won’t be the last, and you’ll go through your process of figuring out when you want to try to convince someone, when you want to ignore an area of disagreement and when you would rather leave a friendship behind because your views are just too different.

Vaccines are a very present and very acute example of a difference in priorities, but how you think about this friendship could help define lots of other relationships for you as you move through middle school and high school.

Good luck, and be well,



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