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Nov. 24, 2021

Ask the expert: Should I see unvaccinated family during the holidays?

"Ask the Expert" articles provide information and insights from MSU scientists, researchers and scholars about national and global issues, complex research and general-interest subjects based on their areas of academic expertise and study. They may feature historical information, background, research findings or offer tips.

With the holidays upon us, people are wondering about the risks of being around
unvaccinated family members — especially those parents whose children are not yet fully vaccinated. Peter Gulick, professor of medicine in the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and infectious disease expert, offers some insight.

Should vaccination status be something parents keep in mind when deciding whether or not to spend the holidays with their extended families?

Yes, especially if there are older people who are immunosuppressed because even if they have been vaccinated, they may not be totally immune. It is important to be vaccinated to protect your older family and friends. 

What if children aren't fully vaccinated?

Well, again, children can be asymptomatic and still be contagious, so it’s even more important to either do a virtual visit or be very careful with masks, socially distancing and possibly getting a rapid test before visiting older and or immune compromised family and friends.  

What can parents do to best protect their family if they decide to attend extended family gatherings with unvaccinated family members? 

It is important that family members are vaccinated before the visit and then it is recommended that everyone wear masks and socially distance when they are inside with unvaccinated family and friends.  

How can parents best communicate concerns to extended family without causing a family feud? 

Be polite and gently explain their concerns, but if parents feel it truly may lead to an argument, it would be best to at least keep their own family safe by being vaccinated, wearing masks and socially distancing. If parents are still uncomfortable, they may want to consider switching their visit to a virtual visit because they need to be responsible for themselves and their own well-being. 

How close are we to the eventual goal of herd immunity with vaccination?

We have about 60% vaccinated patients in United States. For Delta Variant, we would need at least 90% vaccinated.  

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