Omicron presents new hurdle for peaceful family celebrations this Christmas

A man wearing a facemask walks past Christmas decorations outside a wine shop in Mayfair on November 23, 2020 in London, England.
A man wearing a facemask walks past Christmas decorations outside a wine shop in Mayfair on November 23, 2020 in London, England. Photo credit Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
By , KCBS Radio

The holidays can be a stressful time as family members get together.

And while Thanksgiving may have been tough, the omicron variant hadn't yet hit the scene, creating even more possibilities for concern for the upcoming Christmas celebrations.

Podcast Episode
KCBS Radio: On-Demand
Omicron presents new hurdle for peaceful family celebrations this Christmas
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

Even more so when it comes to discussing vaccines. "It's really much safer for everyone to be vaccinated," said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on KCBS Radio's "Ask an Expert" on Wednesday with Holly Quan and Matt Bigler.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask family members attending a celebration at your home if they’ve been vaccinated and/or had their booster shot, he said.

But people’s comfort levels also depend on the scenario, if someone is attending who is more vulnerable or at risk than others, people may consider getting tested before gathering as well. "The best thing to do is to have the test," he said.

It might even be helpful for the hosts to supply the tests. "It’s a little bit awkward but here we are, at this point in the pandemic," he said.

When tackling family members wielding misinformation, it’s best to not get angry, or belittle the person. Instead, try asking questions about where they may have heard the misinformation, what they believe, said Sharfstein.

Then try to offer information from sources you find credible, explain your viewpoint. "Sometimes it's possible, because of these types of misinformation that people get, to really explain why you don’t think that that’s true," he said.

And then it might be beneficial to steer the conversation over to whether or not they've considered getting vaccinated. Depending on their answer, putting it in the perspective of helping others around them, like their mother, can be an effective way to reframe the issue, said Sharfstein.

"Trying to get past the politics and misinformation and show that you’re really doing this because you care about someone, it's a lot easier," he said.

In his own experience discussing vaccine information with people, Sharfstein has found it's important to remind people of the stakes of this disease, how serious the illness is, and how many people have died from it.

"That’s a hard message, and I may wait for the right time to bring that up, but I don’t pull any punches, I really do think this is incredibly important for people to know," he said.

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram