Ask family members if they’re vaccinated before inviting to Thanksgiving, top doctors say


Canada’s top doctors say you should ask your family members if they’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 before you invite them over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Depending on their answer, they added, you might want to change your plans, move dinner outside, or add extra precautions to your event.

“Our advice really is that, overall, keep indoor gatherings safer by asking your guests … your family… whether they’ve been vaccinated or not,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“It is a difficult question sometimes.”

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Tam said that if you or your guests aren’t fully vaccinated, then you “should be limiting the gathering to your household members,” and “having things outdoors as much as possible.”

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Her comments come on the heels of the news that the COVID-19 pandemic might be leveling off in Canada, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).

While progress has been uneven across the country, new modelling presented by PHAC on Friday suggests that if current transmission levels are maintained, the number of new daily cases could decline in the coming weeks.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a safe Thanksgiving'

COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a safe Thanksgiving

COVID-19 guidelines to ensure a safe Thanksgiving

In order to keep things headed in the right direction, Tam said Canadians should continue to take precautions.

Inquiring about guests’ vaccination status ahead of Thanksgiving dinner is just one step you can take, she said, adding that Canadians can “put down some basic measures, such as improving indoor ventilation.”

Tam added that masking and spacing are also useful tools you can use during the holidays, on top of following your local public health guidelines.

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Tam’s deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo, said Canadians shouldn’t shy away from talking to friends and family about their vaccination status and expressing any concerns they might have.

“If, let’s say … a family member is not vaccinated, you should politely explain your situation and your discomfort level. And if they choose not to be vaccinated, then that’s their choice,” Njoo said.

“But there are consequences in terms of even family dynamics and others feeling safe about getting together.”

Read more:
4th wave of COVID-19 no longer growing, cases could decline in coming weeks: PHAC

Having that sometimes difficult conversation with unvaccinated relatives is actually the most ethical thing you can do, according to bioethicist Vardit Ravitsky, who teaches at Université de Montréal and Harvard’s medical school.

“It’s absolutely reasonable, beyond reasonable. I think it’s totally ethical,” Ravitsky said in a previous interview with Global News.

“I think the people who should worry about the ethical aspects of their decisions are those who choose not to be vaccinated.”

She said those who are choosing to be unvaccinated aren’t just taking a risk akin to driving without a seatbelt — they’re driving drunk.

“Not being vaccinated is driving drunk. You are actually risking others,” Ravitsky said.

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“And so I think that even in this very, very sensitive context of families and friends, a part of our ethical responsibility right now is still to educate, to advocate for vaccination and to try and convince our relatives and friends to do the right thing.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario reveals Thanksgiving, Halloween guidelines'

COVID-19: Ontario reveals Thanksgiving, Halloween guidelines

COVID-19: Ontario reveals Thanksgiving, Halloween guidelines

Ravitsky said it’s best to have these conversations with vaccine-hesitant Canadians with “respect and empathy,” and to make sure you don’t laugh off their concerns.

“Come from a place of empathy. Say things like, ‘I understand that you’re feeling under pressure. I understand that you’re feeling under threat.’ Usually, our human rights and freedoms are the main consideration in our society, but we’re living in a very particular point in time,” she said.

“This is all temporary. We will get out of this. But in order to get out of it and get back to respect for human rights and your liberty to choose what to do, we need the vaccine.”

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Read more:
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As for Tam and Njoo, they say they’re planning to celebrate Thanksgiving with family this weekend. While Tam says she might keep things virtual, Njoo is having immediate family over for supper — and they’re all fully vaccinated.

“Both my wife and I are completely vaccinated, so that’s fine, and we’re planning actually to have in-person gatherings with some immediate family members who, we’ve discussed with them, they’re also completely vaccinated,” Njoo said.

“I think we’re fortunate.”

– With a file from Global News’ Leslie Young

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.