Mother and daughter at war over whether to invite anti-vaxxer relative

It’s a dilemma many will be facing this year: You long to see your relations but fear jab refuseniks infecting other loved ones… The mother and daughter at war over whether to invite anti-vaxxer relatives to their family Christmas

  • Sue Tidy, 64, invites nearly 20 relatives to her home in Cornwall each Christmas
  • Eldest of her two daughters Rebecca argues anti-vaxxers should be disinvited 
  • Rebecca claims they pose a risk to the rest of the family and are covid deniers


Sue Tidy, 64, is an autism support worker. Widowed with two daughters, she lives with her partner near St Austell, Cornwall, and had hoped for a big family Christmas. She says:

Sue Tidy, 64, is an autism support worker. Widowed with two daughters, she lives with her partner near St Austell, Cornwall, and had hoped for a big family Christmas. She says:

turkey lunch, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, champagne toasts and cosying up in front of the Queen’s speech. For me, Christmas is all about family.

That’s why we invite nearly 20 relatives to our home in rural Cornwall every year.

Sue Tidy, 64, who has invited nearly 20 relatives to her home in Cornwall for Christmas, is torn as the eldest of her daughters Rebecca has called for anti-vaxxers to be disinvited. Pictured: Sue and Rebecca

I’ve always loved the traditional family gathering and now we finally have grandchildren — a three-year-old and a one-year-old — it’s better than ever. Even though it falls on me to do most of the preparations, I’m really looking forward to the big day. Particularly after last year’s damp squib.

Or should I say I was looking forward to it, until the elder of my two daughters, Rebecca, raised her objections. I have four siblings with a large extended family, but Rebecca has declared that unless I disinvite four of them, she and her three-year-old, Mabel, won’t be coming.

And the reason? All four are anti- vaxxers: they have refused all three Covid vaccines and believe it’s a big conspiracy.

Though I don’t for one second think this pandemic is a hoax, I’m conscious that we can’t force or pressure people into accepting unwanted vaccines, so I believe we just need to make the best of things. I’ve been very careful about Covid myself — I’m triple-vaccinated and have avoided busy restaurants, pubs and shops since the pandemic began. Still, I was stunned by just how strongly Rebecca felt.

When I casually mentioned that they were coming, in conversation last month, I genuinely didn’t think she’d have a problem with it. But she got very angry and said they had to be disinvited. And it wasn’t long before she called her sister Chloe, who’s 32, and three of their cousins, who soon got on the phone to me and voiced their anger, too.

They’ve all made it clear they aren’t happy to meet with anyone who hasn’t had their jabs. Initially I thought it was madness, but now I can grudgingly concede that they have a valid point. After all, we’ve spent the entire year trying to avoid virus transmission. So ditching all of these precautions for one day is a little touch and go.

But it’s Christmas. How can you possibly turn anyone away from your door, especially when you haven’t seen them for months? It’s left me in a really tricky position, as I don’t want to upset anybody. I feel completely torn and it’s making me dread the whole affair.

Initially, I’d assumed it was just Rebecca being melodramatic. It wouldn’t be the first time I feel she’s over-reacted.

Sue suggested that any un-vaccinated relatives should take a PCR or lateral flow test before coming, but they have been reluctant. Pictured: Sue’s daughter Rebecca and granddaughter Mabel

But when the rest of the younger generation made their feelings clear too, I realised the problem wasn’t going away any time soon. Particularly when my youngest daughter and three of my nieces started also sending me countless Facebook messages explaining that the anti-vaxxers need to stay away to keep everyone safe.

Hoping to avoid a big argument, I invited one of these relatives, who I’ve always been very close to, for a cup of tea to discuss the matter tactfully. It certainly wasn’t the easiest of conversations.

They were furious and genuinely seemed not to understand why they were being ‘banned’ from Christmas Day. They also told me they think Rebecca is being over-protective of her daughter. They are convinced vaccines cause health problems and they pointed out that people who have taken the jab can still transmit the virus. I didn’t know what to say. I’m definitely a peacemaker, so I tentatively suggested that any un-vaccinated relatives should take a PCR or lateral flow test before coming, just as a precaution.

I thought it was a good compromise. Unfortunately, they said they are reluctant to take the test because they feel singled out by the girls’ comments. And the girls say they don’t trust them to carry out the tests properly anyway.

It saddens me that somebody is going to end up upset no matter what happens. Now I feel guilty as I keep asking myself if I should have taken my girls’ feelings into account sooner when agreeing to do Christmas this year. One of my nieces works at the local hospital as a nurse and another is a paramedic, so they’ve seen some truly awful things over the past 18 months. The new Omicron variant has yet to hit Cornwall where we live, but it’s only a matter of time.

Sue admits there’s a huge part of her that’s tempted to tell everyone to just spend Christmas in their own homes this year because it’s not easy trying to keep everyone happy. Pictured left to right: Louise, Rebecca, Mabel and Sue

I worry about how it would affect me and other family members if we became unwell. The local hospital often hits the headlines as it’s struggling to cope with the volume of patients needing help.

My paramedic niece pointed out that it’s already less than ideal to have 20 people crowded into a hot, stuffy room for the day. Without vaccinations, she said, this confined environment becomes riskier than ever with potential Covid particles flying around.

It’s a valid point. We all ended up with horrendous coughs and colds two Christmases ago, even though we had the windows open for a large part of the day. It took weeks to get over that illness.

Still, I can’t deny that it just doesn’t feel right to exclude those you love from such a lovely day.

I’ve thought about all kinds of compromises, like setting up a gazebo or marquee in the garden or meeting up at one of the local outdoor carol services.

But in reality, it’s exhausting enough preparing for Christmas Day as it is, without all this extra hassle. I spend almost all of my free time in December slaving over a hot stove — from baking gingerbread to gluten-free chocolate yule log so everyone can enjoy it.

There’s a huge part of me that’s tempted to tell everyone to just spend Christmas in their own homes this year. It’s not easy trying to keep everyone happy and there’s always at least one or two arguments in the run-up to the day itself, no matter how much effort I make to keep the peace.

Perhaps someone else can organise things for a change.

At the moment, both factions are still coming so it promises to be a humdinger — you’ll find me hiding in the kitchen!


Rebecca Tidy, 34, a writer, lives with daughter Mabel, three, in Truro. She doesn’t want unvaccinated family members to attend. She says:

Rebecca said anti-vaxx relatives are entitled to their opinions, but she is unwilling to accept the health risks of knowingly coming into contact with people who refuse to social-distance, wear masks or have the jab. Pictured: Rebecca and Sue

Christmas is normally a noisy, chaotic day of family festivities where everyone has a great time. I absolutely love spending it at my parents’ farm with all of us together. And I was particularly looking forward to it this year after last winter’s lacklustre day, which Mabel and I spent alone. So imagine my shock when last month my mum casually mentioned that our anti-vaxx relatives would be joining us.

They pose a risk to the rest of us and, to my mind, should be disinvited. I haven’t seen them since last year — even though we were previously always close — due to their anti-vaxx stance.

From their Facebook posts, it’s clear they are Covid deniers. And while they’re entitled to their opinions, I’m unwilling to accept the health risks of knowingly coming into contact with people who refuse to social-distance, wear masks or have the jab.

I’ve avoided them since the start of the pandemic and naively believed they’d have the decency to stay away from our family Christmas. I hope we will reunite one day when it’s safer, but I’m not prepared to back down. Particularly with the Omicron strain being far more transmissible.

I’m not the only person to feel like this. A quick scroll through my Facebook feed reveals countless heated debates over whether unjabbed people should be allowed for Christmas lunch.

Unsurprisingly, many feel very strongly about this — it is, after all, potentially a life and death matter. There have been around 146,000 deaths from coronavirus in the UK alone.

I immediately told my mother my thoughts, explaining it was ludicrous that anyone could allow unjabbed people into a hot, crowded room in the middle of a pandemic. I was a little perplexed when she frowned and asked me to let things slide for one day.

It was especially surprising when you consider that she’s been more careful than any of us when it comes to the virus.

Despite her general good health, she had heart failure during her 30s so she’s been very careful about who she sees socially. I get that she’s worried about creating family division, but what’s more important — causing offence or avoiding Covid?

Rebecca said her daughter Mabel (pictured) didn’t even attend nursery for the first 12 months of the pandemic because she’s highly vulnerable to covid

I reminded her that Mabel was born prematurely with breathing difficulties and spent time on a ventilator. It’s only recently that she’s gained enough weight to be considered healthy, so she’s highly vulnerable to Covid. She didn’t even attend nursery for the first 12 months of the pandemic.

I have no desire to see her struggle for breath again, with her little body hooked up to tubes and medical equipment. It was the worst time of my life, believing I could lose my precious baby. I was exhausted with worry but unable to sleep for weeks.

And it’s not just little Mabel’s health — there are my lovely grannies who’ve gone to great lengths to avoid Covid as they’re both over 80. Meanwhile I’ve overcome two malignant melanomas in the past decade which required numerous surgeries.

Other family members have heart problems and some significant illnesses. There’s just no point in risking everyone’s wellbeing for the sake of one day.

But why should Mabel and I stay at home because others are too selfish to have the vaccine? I think my mum should just tell them to stay away.

I offered to tell them, but Mum wanted to do it herself.

Last weekend, she said she’d spoken to them, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she’s just avoided the topic to keep the peace.

I can already picture my mum quietly hissing to my sister and me not to cause a scene as our anti-vaxx relatives take a seat in the already-crowded living room. But I’ll be furious if this happens and I won’t hold back. And one thing’s for certain, I’ll be leaving with Mabel in tow.


Louise Tidy, 30, a production manager from St Austell, is Sue’s niece, and agrees with her cousin, Rebecca. She says:

I was furious when I heard that these relatives were coming to Christmas tea without their vaccinations. Not a chance.

They run the risk of making everyone extremely ill, simply because they spend too much time on Facebook listening to far-fetched conspiracy theories.

I texted the entire family to tell them exactly what I think. My little sister works long hours as a paramedic so she’s seen first-hand the pain and destruction caused by this virus. Families have lost loved ones and there have been hours of suffering.

And that’s before you consider the knock-on impact on cancer waiting times and the limited availability of beds for other pressing medical conditions.

If one of our unjabbed family members has Covid on Christmas Day, we’re all bound to catch it while we crowd around the fire. Their irresponsible behaviour could mean there’s one less paramedic to respond to emergencies over the following few weeks.

It’s infuriating because this ridiculous situation is entirely preventable with the vaccine or simply by disinviting anyone who’s unjabbed. The family is really stressed out, all because some people are obstinate.

Covid doesn’t suddenly become less contagious, just because it’s Christmas Day. It may be the season of goodwill, but I’m not feeling charitable enough to risk everyone’s life for the sake of a few stubborn anti-vaxxers.

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