Ask Amy: Unvaccinated Senior Parents at Graduation

By Amy Dickinson | May 28th, 2021

Is it safe to have unvaccinated 70-year-olds traveling?


Unvaccinated senior couple Image

Dear Amy: My parents, in their late-70s, are not planning to get the COVID vaccine. Although we have had respectful conversations about the issue, I don’t expect that I will persuade them to change their minds.

They have no underlying health conditions and still live independently, at home, several hours from us.

One of our children graduates in June. My husband and I are vaccinated, and our children (all eligible) will be vaccinated by then.

We invited my unvaccinated senior parents to join us. They are thrilled, as we haven’t seen them for a year. They will stay with us and mingle at our outdoor Open House (with several of my other (likely unvaccinated) siblings.

As a vaccine supporter, I’m terrified of the risk my parents are taking.

They feel it is their choice. I respect that, but should it affect my planning of graduation events? Should it affect our future interactions?

— Disappointed Daughter


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Dear Disappointed: I agree that your parents are taking a risk by traveling, unvaccinated. Not only are they risking their own health, but if they contract the coronavirus, perhaps during travel, they could spread it to others without even knowing it. As you know, the vaccine protects people from the more severe forms of the illness caused by the virus.

If you insist on having your folks with you (you invited them, after all), planning outdoor group events seems safest for them and other unvaccinated people they will come into contact with.

Graduation and wedding season will bring on a host of situations like yours.

Every family needs to use their own best judgment about what to do, following current CDC and their local guidelines.

Yes, your folks have the right to decline vaccination; however, their rights don’t take precedence over yours.

I know of groups that have made vaccination a qualification for getting together; you might have been able to pressure your folks to get vaccinated if you had done the same.

In the shorter term, it would be safer for you and other vaccinated family members to travel to visit your folks, versus them traveling to visit you.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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