Vaccines will be an important part of Thanksgiving celebrations

Sabrina Almeida

Vaccination status is a highly contentious subject that has divided families, friends, neighbours and co-workers.

What’s this got to do with Thanksgiving? 

Well, it could determine whether you will be part of a social gathering or left to celebrate with your own household once again!

The parties might be back but this is not a fully normal Thanksgiving! We’re still in a pandemic and staring down the Delta variant that is reportedly more deadly than the original strain of the coronavirus. Everyone’s on edge! So it’s not surprising for Thanksgiving invitations to have a vaccine caveat attached to them.

As many people are uncomfortable being indoors with the unvaccinated, invites are likely to be issued and accepted based on vaccine status. 

No, we’re not being paranoid or insensitive! The advice issued by many medical officers for this holiday weekend also revolves around vaccinations.

Dr. Kieran Moore, the province’s top doctor has said one “may choose” to remove masks indoors when gathering with others who have been vaccinated. But let’s be honest no one wants to make a statement by keeping their mask on. It’s awkward both for the host and the guests. More importantly, hosts have a responsibility to keep their guests safe… so the invitee list could be limited to the fully-vaccinated this year.

Toronto’s medical office of health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommends gathering outdoors if some of your guests have not yet taken their jabs, or if you’re including children under 12 who are not yet eligible for vaccines. She also urges anyone with symptoms, including a runny nose, to stay home. Sure, it’s the beginning of the cold and flu season, so it’s not necessarily  COVID. But you shouldn’t be out partying if you have a common cold!!!

Dr. Moore has also said that it is acceptable for hosts to screen their guests for symptoms. Self screening can save you from a potentially embarrassing situation.

Peel’s top doctor echoes the advice given by Moore and de Villa. He also recommends keeping the party small. A smaller gathering is safer, said Dr. Lawrence Loh.

As per Ontario’s current guidelines, gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed indoors while up to 100 may congregate outdoors. But the number of people you invite is also relative to the gathering space. It’s not wise or safe to cram 25 people into a tiny room. Social distancing is important, especially indoors. We’re also being advised to leave windows and doors open to let in as much fresh air as possible.

So yes, this Thanksgiving will put the spotlight on the vaccine haves and have nots. It will also involve uncomfortable questions or discussions around vaccination status. Many of which will have already taken place.

Some hosts may not want to “get into it”, as one friend remarked. But it’s important to remember that one unvaccinated individual can put a lot of people at risk, especially the elderly and immunocompromised. So, asking your guests or host about vaccine status is fair. 

But the manner in which you do it can make it less prickly. Having a face-to-face or telephone conversation is far better than sending a text or email. Let’s be respectful and empathetic but make the right decision for all involved.

Some health care experts have gone so far as to say it is smarter (and ethical) not to invite people who have not been inoculated. Both for their safety as well as that of the other guests. So, don’t feel bad if the conversation doesn’t go well despite you being respectful. You’re doing the right thing and hopefully time will put it into perspective.

Given the rise in cases after every holiday, we can almost expect COVID-19 infections to increase after the Thanksgiving weekend! Taking precautions can help with infection control and keeping one another safe.

Ontario is in a relatively good position because of our vaccination rates and some of the restrictions that are still in place. Let’s keep up the good work by spreading thanks, not COVID! 

As we give thanks for being able to turn the COVID corner, let’s remember all those who didn’t make it and say a special prayer for all our essential workers who put themselves at risk to keep us safe!

Wishing you a happy and safe Thanksgiving!




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