AdviceHey, Bonita!

My Family Is Unvaccinated

I am so disappointed and hurt. I’m the only person in my family that’s vaccinated, and they say I’m an awful person because I won’t let them see my newborn son. Not only are they not vaccinated, they’re pretty irresponsible with going out in public frequently without any precautions. I personally struggle with some health issues that have made me extra cautious, which I’ve been very firm with them about since the pandemic started. So really, it feels like they don’t care about my baby’s health or mine. This has become so explosive that my parents aren’t even talking to me. This is supposed to be an exciting and happy time in my life, but I just feel heartbroken, angry and scared, honestly. How do I get them to understand what this is doing to me? And the potential relationship with my child? 

Mommy Blues

Hey Mommy Blues,

It’s truly messed up that your story is one that I’ve heard way too many times since January. I’m not a parent, but I still can’t fathom letting politics come between me and my adult offspring, especially letting it get to the point where you are currently. And especially if it pertains to an issue that really shouldn’t be political, like the health of their grandchild. That’s not to say that I always agree with my folks, but our love for each other always overrides interpersonal squabbles—plus, I’m great at choosing my battles. Your parents? Not so much. They’re refusing to take steps to make it safe to be around their grandchild, and they refuse to speak to their own daughter. They are putting politics before their loved one’s health and safety.

I suspect that most of the suggestions that I’ll make will be ones you’ve already tried, like explaining to them in no uncertain terms that their behavior hurts you and makes you doubt their love for you. I’m sure you’ve already shared indisputable facts with them, such as the fact that babies have very weak immune systems, and so do the elderly. I’m sure you’ve sent them to all of the CDC and NIH web pages debunking all of the misinformation out there about COVID-19 and vaccination. I think it’s important to remember that people have egos, and those egos sometimes make us believe that we know better than virologists who have spent their entire adult lives researching the spread of these types of diseases. 

People see public health initiatives like mask mandates as an affront to their personal agency, as an attempt at control by a government that already has a say in lots of aspects of our lives. They can’t even see the benefit of masking or vaccination because of that distrust, and it gets worse when certain pundits and media personalities stoke and politicize that fear. The way that Anthony Fauci has been villainized for political gain literally makes no sense and is in direct disservice to the public good. This has gone from a health issue to being a big part of some people’s social and political paradigms, and frankly, I don’t have groundbreaking ideas on how to combat that. It is probably little comfort to you to know that your choice to keep them away from your baby will be vindicated by history, and that others will be judged much in the way that we presently judge the folks who picketed against school integration in the 50s. 

But making them feel like embarrassing idiots will not help with getting them to understand what their behavior is doing to you or to the future of their relationship with their grandchild. I’d like to refer you to Paul Blest’s guide to getting a Trump voter vaccinated, which can easily be found online. I believe that it will address some issues that you are dealing with, and offer great advice on how to respond to certain aspects of vaccine hesitancy. I want to assure you that this painful and saddening choice that you’ve made is the right one, and you should be proud of this decision and thankful for your child’s health in your darkest hours.

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