The Complete Etiquette Guide: Vaccine Edition

In a world where some have gotten the jab and some haven’t, it’s important to remember: No one is immune to stupidity. Here’s what to do, and what not to do, when you’re in mixed company.

woman getting a vaccine

Photo by Luis Alvarez/Getty Images


You’re invited to a barbecue with people you haven’t seen in person since March 2020. It’s mixed company; you’ve gotten the stab, but others are in limbo.

WHAT NOT TO DO: Brag about how you lucked into a vaccine because you know a great plastic surgeon. Rhapsodize about upcoming trips. Remark on how you’re completely pool-ready thanks to an unhealthy attachment to your Peloton instructor. Touch things.

DO THIS INSTEAD: Strategize exits in case of ostracization. Tell anyone who will listen that you’ve actually never felt worse since being sprung from extreme, soul-crushing isolation. Vaccination is awful. Really!


Your parents are vaccinated—but, alas, you’re not.

WHAT NOT TO DO: Immediately invite them to babysit your children for a solid month. Offer cash. Change your name and address.

DO THIS INSTEAD: Give them a chance to get reacquainted with the physical demands of blanket forts and piggy-back rides before offloading your brood for an extended voyage. If your family isn’t at risk for severe COVID, dinner and a hug might be a good place to start.


A college friend who made millions after graduation by investing in sourdough starters invites himself to your backyard. Unlike you, he’s vaccinated, and he really wants to hang out!

WHAT NOT TO DO: Channel your jealousy by boasting about your pandemic-era achievements, including learning how to knit placemats and teaching yourself a new language known only to your spouse. Comment snidely that you hardly recognized him without a flattering Zoom ring light. Invite him to tour your child’s guinea pig house.

DO THIS INSTEAD: Swallow your hostility by fashioning a charcuterie plate out of canned goods you’ve hoarded since last winter. Ask questions about life on the other side, such as “Do you remember how to drive a car?” and “What are humans?”


An older lady sneezes near you at Market Basket.

WHAT NOT TO DO: Attack her with the 78th tub of Ben & Jerry’s you’ve bought since last March . Insist on seeing proof of vaccination. Hiss, “Moderna, J&J, or Pfizer?” while ramming your cart into her sensible shoes. Vow to never leave the house again.

DO THIS INSTEAD: Acknowledge that Grandma was two aisles over. Go home.

Read more about how to manage post-pandemic anxiety in our guide to getting out of the bubble.