• Susie Wilson

Vaccine etiquette: Mask etiquette: A guide to politely navigating this new phase of the pandemic

Vaccine etiquette: Mask etiquette

A guide to politely navigating this new phase of the pandemic. It’s an exciting time when people are finally getting together without feeling the pressure of having to wear a mask.

With this new freedom comes some anxiety as to how to re-enter the social world. Many people are uneasy about socialising with people who have not been vaccinated. Others have questions about how to greet and say hello after a long hiatus. I am answering some of your questions today. Yes even I have thought about this today, I was speaking to a colleague yesterday and we spoke about vaccinations, I then realised that this could be a topic that may make someone feel uncomfortable? This falls under social etiquette and respect.

Dilemmas involving family and friends


I have a friend or relative I think is behaving irresponsibly. Can I say something?

Whether the person is sharing unmasked selfies or vaccine misinformation, calling them out could end up making them more set in their ways or beliefs.


There has been a rash of people lecturing one another about what they should or should not do during the pandemic, and these “sermons” are largely unproductive. The only time it might be useful to have this type of conversation is when it is with someone you are already close to, and you can do so privately.

However well-intended it might be offering unsolicited advice through a public Facebook or Instagram comment will not change a thing.

It’s never okay. It’s never a good idea. Never, ever, ever. In fact, when we get that unsolicited advice, your brain goes through the same series of actions that it would if you were being physically attacked.

Question: How do I answer the point-blank question, “Have you been vaccinated?” I have been, but I know some people who have not? As a courtesy- I would prefer to keep my private information private. Answer: Everyone has a personal belief about the vaccination and asking someone for their vaccination status for no reason at all is similar to asking about the size of their bank account. It is not a conversation starter, however, most people are not attempting to be purposely invasive, simply sincerely concerned for the safety of their own health or their families. When in doubt and feeling on edge, you can politely ask, “Are you asking because you are concerned for your health or just curious?” I can’t say that you should not ask, but I recommend asking for the right reasons, not solely for the sake of random conversation. Question: I’m going to my first official face to face cocktail party where I will be seeing friends I haven’t seen for over a year. How should I greet them without offending them? Should I offer them a knuckle bump, handshake or hug? I don’t want to appear standoffish. Answer: Take your lead by watching the body language of the person you are about to greet. Realize everyone will have a different comfort level and you may be greeting several people multiple different ways. When in doubt, don’t “jump in”. Physical contact is not appropriate without permission. Ask your favorite cousin, “Are you comfortable with a hug or should we elbow bump?” Communicating with a smile and using a friendly tone of voice will set the tone for a comfortable exchange.

Question: I have been invited to a wedding, but I am not comfortable accepting the invitation if there will be people who are not vaccinated in this social setting. Is it okay to ask the bride if she will be limiting her guest list to “vaccinated guests only”?

Answer: A guest has a right to ask the host (bride or groom) what they can expect at the wedding and ceremony. Especially on the topic of the pandemic where people have very strong feelings about vaccinations, health and safety measures. The guest should ask kindly, keeping their tone of voice non-judgmental, “What are your plans for inviting unvaccinated guests?” or “Are you requiring your guests to be vaccinated and show proof?” Keep in mind there is a high risk of offending some guests, but the immune-compromised and those with strong religious beliefs and underlying health issues will have to make a personal decision based on their comfort level.

Question: Is it rude to wear a mask when everyone else isn’t wearing one to a party? My friend says if I wear a mask, I will make other people feel uneasy, but I am still uncomfortable in crowded social settings. Answer: If you would like to wear a mask, it’s certainly your personal choice. You may have a medical reason, you might ask the bride and groom if they have any qualms with you wearing a face covering while everyone else is bare faced. If they say yes, they would prefer you go without one, you have a personal reason to decline the invitation. Explain you don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable and respect their candor. If you choose not to attend, thank them for understanding your reason and assure them you will all get together in a smaller, more personal setting after the wedding.

Question: Is it rude to ask my hairstylist or babysitter if they have been vaccinated before I use them again? Answer: It certainly is not rude for the same reasons I mentioned in the previous question. Feel free to ask without hesitation. If your hairstylist has not been vaccinated, it doesn’t have to be goodbye forever. You can let her know while you may be taking a break from her services for now, you will look forward to seeing her again when life gets back to an open and full socialisation routine.