Vaccination status and Thanksgiving could be ‘a really combustible mix,’ experts say.


Last year, pre-Thanksgiving concerns centered on social distancing and taking risks with the coronavirus. This year, the focus is inoculation; more than 192 million Americans had been fully vaccinated as of Sunday morning, but that is only about 58 percent of the total population.

Many Americans thinking about hosting or attending a bigger Thanksgiving celebration this year are considering a question that has become sensitive and often polarizing: Will they and other guests be vaccinated?

The age-old wisdom about dinner conversation “is to avoid sex, death and politics,” said Noel Brewer, a professor specializing in health behaviors at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Vaccinations have moved onto that list.”


Still, immunization status threatens to complicate the holiday planning and the meal itself. “People who get vaccinated can also be self-righteous, and some people who haven’t been vaccinated can be belligerent,” Dr. Brewer said, adding, “That could really be a combustible mix.”


In interviews, many people — both vaccinated and unvaccinated — said that they were planning to tiptoe around the subject, in some cases avoiding a meal with those they might disagree with. Others, who are immunocompromised or have children too young to be vaccinated, are grappling with how to decline invitations from unvaccinated relatives. And some hosts, worried about safety, are drawing a line.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance for the holiday season is that people should protect others ineligible for vaccines, such as young children, by getting inoculated and encouraging guests to be vaccinated. The C.D.C. also advises that people gathering with others from multiple households in different parts of the country consider taking additional precautions, like getting a coronavirus test beforehand.

But many people oppose the vaccines, for various reasons. Some said that stance had alienated them from their families and friends.

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