Christmas is meant to be a time filled with joy, but for many families it can underline divisions between parents, children or siblings and bring unresolved tensions to the surface. This year adds a particular issue to that dynamic – whether or not individual family members are vaccinated.
Olivia, 23, Manchester
My mother is in her 60s and has been an anti-vaxxer all her life. I wasn’t vaccinated for anything until I was an adult.
My parents are divorced and I’ve got three siblings. Both my sisters are also unvaccinated but my brother and my father are vaccinated like me.
My mother is worried about meeting up with her vaccinated children at Christmas. She thinks our vaccines could “shed” into her body, which is ridiculous. And my father, who is 59, doesn’t want to host his unvaccinated children indoors at Christmas. He wants all of us to exchange gifts with him outdoors and have a PCR test beforehand.
My two unvaccinated siblings and I eventually decided that the three of us would spend Christmas together at my sister’s house. My vaccinated brother will spend it with his kids but drop in and see us. He’s had Covid, so feels invincible, and I am young and healthy and vaccinated, so feel my personal risk is low.
We will all do lateral flow tests before we meet up, and none of us has any pre-existing medical conditions.
On one level, I’m glad I’m not spending Christmas with my parents, because all the discussions about the vaccine and Covid can be a bit overwhelming. It will be nice to spend it with my siblings. But at the same time, I think it is a shame – and both my parents are upset about it, particularly my dad. He really wants all his children to be vaccinated and for us all to have Christmas dinner together.
Emma, 30, Hertfordshire
Neither my father, who is a well-educated professional with a chronic health condition, nor my stepmother, who works for the NHS, are vaccinated. They are both in their 60s.
I am going to meet up with them at Christmas for the bare minimum of time – just an hour or so – for the sake of maintaining a normal relationship. If it was any other day, I wouldn’t be seeing them, but because it’s Christmas, I feel an obligation to do so.
I’ve had dozens of conversations with my dad, trying to convince him to have the vaccine. I’ve also written him long emails, questioning the source data of the articles he sends me. He gets his information from Facebook and Telegram groups, from people like David Icke and Piers Corbyn, and from random websites selling herbal remedies.
My brother isn’t going to visit my dad this year like he usually does. We will visit him last, after first going to see my mother and my in-laws, who are vulnerable – we have had to plan it like that.
The reason I’m seeing him is to keep the peace and because I don’t want our relationship to die. But my dad and my seven-year-old daughter adore each other, and I worry that when they see each other, she will give him Covid.
I have almost come to accept that he will get ill and die, before it’s happened. There are loads of cases at her school.
I wish there was more acceptance that it is OK to change your mind about the vaccine; that actually a decision you made a year ago doesn’t have to be one you continue to stick to. It would make my year if my dad said: on reflection, I was wrong about the risks, or I really want to see my son, and I’m going to get vaccinated. That would be the ultimate Christmas present.
Angela, 58, Cornwall
I have multiple sclerosis and am fully vaccinated but my husband, who is in his 60s and has several chronic health conditions, is unvaccinated. He won’t even wear a mask.
He won’t get tested for Covid either, so this means that at Christmas we can’t go and visit his father, who is in his 90s and lives in a care home. They haven’t seen each other for two years.
I have had lots of very long protracted arguments with my husband about the vaccine. I sent him articles from the Guardian and the Observer, and for many months I tried to persuade him that he was wrong. But I have given up completely now. I’m tired of it all. I tell him I don’t want to know his theories, and ignore him when he talks to me about it.
My mother, who is 89, is coming to stay with us at Christmas. Even though she’s fully vaccinated, I’m very nervous about it. Her view is: she’s lived through the war: she can survive my husband.
I find the situation very distressing and frustrating. It’s also exhausting – I find I am constantly veering between feeling angry with my husband and worrying that he will catch Covid.
Some names and details have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees