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The new awkward question of our time – and how to ask it

Are you vaccinated? Many of us want to know, but we aren’t quite sure how to ask. And though it’s a seemingly simple question – whether you’re asking before going on a date with someone new or planning a long-awaited hang-out with friends – it can feel uncomfortable to drop into your conversation.

“I may have to start keeping a tally of the awkward conversations I have when I ask people if they have gotten vaccinated,” user @lobbychic tweeted. Experts say the awkwardness comes from multiple factors, including the polarizing opinions the pandemic has surfaced. “Not everyone places the same value on being vaccinated… there are people who are quite clear that they do not want to be vaccinated,” said Lynn F. Bufka, the American Psychological Association’s senior director of practice transformation and quality. Other factors that make the question awkward include the varying access to vaccines as well as specific medical conditions that may make someone eligible.

“These medical conditions may be personal and not obvious to others,” said David Harari, a psychiatrist at K Health. For example, Harari noted that someone who was eligible through pregnancy or smoking may not be ready to share that with their family or friends. It also feels deeply personal to some people. “There are a lot of beliefs and emotions tied into decision making, so know that whenever you ask about the decisions that others make, you are asking them to expose their inner workings,” explained Andreas Michaelides, chief of psychology at Noom.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask, especially if you are planning to see others without masks. Per the latest CDC guidelines, those who have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccine may get together with other fully vaccinated individuals in small groups inside their homes without masks or physical distancing. They can visit with unvaccinated people from one other household who are at low risk for severe disease. And many people have been proactive about announcing their vaccinations on social media. Furthermore, some are indicating their vaccine status on their dating profiles.

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