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Can I ask my co-workers if they've been vaccinated?

NBC News health editor Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom answers your burning post-pandemic etiquette questions.
Healthcare Workers Administer Covid-19 Vaccines At Airport As U.S. Daily Cases Hit 14-Month Low
A healthcare worker administers a Covid-19 vaccine at the Oregon Health & Science University mass vaccination site at Portland International Airport in in Oregon on May 17, 2021.Alisha Jucevic / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The good news is about half of Americans who are 12 and older are now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. That means many people are now trying to get on with “normal life,” whether that means fully jumping back in or just dipping a toe.

Many of us are physically back in the office, or making plans to return. And with summer around the corner, there will be more social events, backyard BBQs, sporting events and more.

Given the past year, you’re not alone in wondering if some questions are taboo or off limits. Here are some answers to eight of the most often-asked pandemic etiquette questions.

Can I ask my co-workers if they’ve been vaccinated?

You are always free to ask anyone you interact with about their vaccine status. It’s all about how you ask. You might offer that you’ve been vaccinated, and you’re doing your best to know if those around you are too—and if they’re comfortable sharing that information.

You’ll likely find the response is positive, and they’re happy to share. Avoid pressuring a person who is uncomfortable. And rest assured, if you are vaccinated, you are protected!

With that said, check with your workplace, as some businesses have made a policy indicating the best reply is “the company does not want us to say,” or they have a firm policy in place that anyone returning to the workplace is required to be fully vaccinated.

Am I obligated to answer if I’ve been asked if I’m vaccinated?

While most people are happy to say they’ve been vaccinated, and do so freely, if you’re not comfortable replying, simply say you’re not comfortable.

But if an individual needs to know for a medical reason, you should reconsider your response. For some people, especially friends and family, it’s a matter of personal comfort, and your positive response can go a long way to boosting that.

Is it OK to ask the host of a party if all guests have been vaccinated?

It is definitely OK to ask the host of a party if all guests are vaccinated—but be aware that they might not know. For your own comfort level, you might also want to ask how many total guests are attending, and whether the party is indoors or outdoors. That added information can help you make your own decision about attending.

Can I go in for a hug at a party?

As long as you’re both vaccinated, it’s a great idea to catch up on your hugs. And with hugging and accompanying hand holding, it’s still always a good idea to wash with soap and water when you can, or carry hand sanitizer along for a quick clean up.

Can I ask parents if they’re vaccinated before I let my child play at their house?

It’s important to know the vaccine status of the adults at a home where your child is playing—especially if your child is younger than 12 and not eligible for a vaccine. As with any request about your child’s well-being away from home, explain your concerns.

Should I wear a mask to be polite, even if I’m fully vaccinated?

Masks area not required in many places for those who are fully vaccinated, so you can feel secure about going mask-less. But many people feel mentally better wearing one while out in public. That’s a personal choice. But the rules are still in flux about masks requirements, so pay attention when you walk into a store or restaurant. Feel free to go mask-less, but if you’re the type of person who feel awkward if they are the only one without a mask, stay in your comfort zone, and wear it for the time being.

Can I bring a big shared plate to a get-together, like chips and dip?

Pandemic or no, many people shy away from “group” appetizers like chips and dip because of the repeated dipping and hands in multiple bowls. You might not be a “double dipper,” but many people are. Bringing a shared plate that is in a single bowl with a serving spoon is the best idea. Feel free to bring chips (or veggies) and dip, and leave tongs and servings spoons along with small plates next to food—for easier individual self-serving.

Should I try to influence those around me who are proudly not vaccinated to do so?

In a word—no! Many people mistakenly think lack of information about the vaccine is the reason a person is not fully vaccinated at this point. This is almost never the case. If the conversation goes in that direction, consider changing the subject.

Bottom line: when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine etiquette, it’s all about personal safety and requesting information in a polite and respectful way.

Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D. is NBC News’ health editor. Follow her on twitter @drfernstrom.