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Soon, my COVID booster shot is due to be taken. Last time I got it, I experienced some reactions, so I worry this could happen again this time.

Under that light, if I get a reaction or my arm is sore, I might require to be put out of comission on that day.

Is it advised to to inform your work colleagues that you are getting a covid booster shot in the future and you may be put of commission on that day? Whom do you suggest I bring this up to, if anyone?

For those wishing to consider a location for purposes of the question, you can assume an Australian workplace, though I'm happy enough to receive answers that are generally of a western culture, as I think it's broadly applicable to my situation.

I am considering telling my boss, and also some peers that may be impacted and whether the approach or even whether to mention it is different between the two.

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10 Answers 10

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If you have a medical appointment that may cause you to take sick leave, then yes, it would be appropriate to warn colleagues if they are going to be impacted.

The amount of detail you go into regarding what happens during that medical appointment is up to you.

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Treat it like any other medical appointment. Inform the people that need to know (who that is depends on your company, but you should know) that you have a medical appointment and that it might take longer than expected or you might be out on sick leave afterwards.

Personally, where I live, vaccination is not a political issue. We do have peopl that think they get implanted mindcontrol chips, but no relevant political party would side with them. So where I live, it's perfectly fine to come forward in sprint planning and say "next Thursday I'll get my booster, I might be late and I might be out for a day or two after that if it hits just like the first two".

If you live in a country where this was made a political issue (cough US cough) you might want to be more guarded and just call it "a medical appointment". I would suggest you follow the lead of all the people that already got their first two shots. If they said it out loud back then and nothing bad happened to them in the company so far, I guess it should be okay to just say it. If they kept it secret or if anything unfair happened to them, just keep it for yourself and be vague.

In many countries (like mine) there are rules for the workplace. So no, nobody (except the designated health officer at the company) is allowed to know my vaccination status, but all workers that aren't vaccinated have to be tested to enter the premises. So... yes, you don't know my status, but you know if I'm being tested at the door. Which means colleagues know, they just don't offficially know. But again... where I live, vaccination status says something about vaccination status... and nothing else. You need to make your decision based on where you live.


As a general guideline whether I share private health information, I try to be helpful to my colleagues. If I'm on medical leave, I try to give them enough information to know whether they need to take action themselves. For example if I sat in a meeting with 5 coworkers yesterday and I'm out sick today, there is information that is helpful. Do I have something contagious? Did I hurt myself on company grounds, is there something dangerous they should avoid? Personally, if I had direct contact with a colleague and they are now out sick, I'm always relieved to know it's something where I don't have to worry about. For example, I have not to worry if they are getting vaccinated, or have a dentist appointment or they are seeing their orthopedic. That's nothing I can catch. Now if they slipped on the stairs or caught the flu, I might want to avoid that flight of stairs or disinfect their area. So if you want to be helpful, share information that is helpful or actionable. The fact that they don't need to take action can be good news, too.

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Yes, tell your manager. It might be relevant, depending on local Covid regulations.

In some areas, there are vaccine mandates that require all individuals who work in indoor areas outside the home to have had a vaccine. In some cases, these mandates also require that you have recieved a booster shot, if the time since your last vaccination exceeds a certain amount. As such, informing your boss about your vaccination plans is a good idea, not only so that they can plan for the day you'll be sick, but so that they can be prepared with a list of employees who would be able to work if the details of any vaccine mandates in your area are altered.

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Tell them you have a medical appointment

And that's it. If you have side effects that bar you from doing your work, follow the procedures that are specific to your country and company for medical leave.

There is no reason to get involved in this whole vax/anti-vax discussion - it is (for whatever reasons) a contentious issue for some people, in certain places or companies. Virtue signaling should be left at the workplace entrance. Just get your shot and get back to work. Unless you actively want to make a political statement out of it, of course - then by all means. I have generally found it more productive to avoid hot political topics at work.

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  • great suggestion indeed. Not only it avoid sensible topics and discussions, it is also truthful (the shot is medical).
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 15:53
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In the U.S. you do not have to disclose this information.

Get your shot and if you feel ill then take the day off just like you would for a regular illness. It's your supervisor's job to coordinate your work load.

If your supervisor is not some loon then you can be nice and disclose your booster shot plans to them to be nice.

If you had an extended illness such as cancer then it's generally hard to keep that a secret from colleagues which you directly work with. A 1-2 day covid booster fatigue is not something to "write home about".

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Should I advise colleagues about a booster shot?

From an etiquette perspective ask yourself this:

Have you ever advised your colleagues about any other shot or other medical procedure?

Have your colleagues ever advised you about any shot or other medical procedures?

If your colleagues commonly advise you then it would be OK to advise them. If they don't then you probably don't need to worry about advising them.

Personally, whenever there is a possibility that I would be unable to perform my work to the best of my abilities for whatever reason, I preemptively ask for the day off. You may or may not have that flexibility in your company, but it is something to consider.

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Let's break this down between talking to your manager/boss and talking to your peers because there's some distinct factors for each one:

Boss:

In New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia "essential workers" the booster shot is actually being mandated and must be taken within one month of becoming eligible. Some other locations/industries may have similar requirements I mention this because it has a bearing on the approach to your boss here - telling your manager that you're going for your booster shot not only means you're one less employer to worry about in terms of whether your workforce is in compliance with the mandate but also improves your chances of better flexibility from them in the event of needing time off should you feel unwell after the shot.

The fact that employees/team members will call out sick unexpectedly is an unavoidable part of being a manager - people get sick sometimes and it can't be helped, and you just have to handle it as best as you can. But that doesn't mean it's not stressful and potentially difficult. So if you can provide advance warning of the possibility and provide a likely level of impact (the most common side effects and their duration is pretty well understood now) then most managers are going to take that as you doing them a huge favor - and managers like employees who do things to make their life easier. Those are the employees who are more likely to get consideration back, get good evaluations etc. Conversely some may view those who have foreknowledge of a likely abscence but choose not to tell them as having either not cared about the potential impact or worst-case having been happy to leave them in the lurch.

You might have a Bad ManagerTM, one who gets annoyed about you potentially being out but realistically they're going to get mad if you don't warn them in advance. At least this way you'd know about it and can factor that into any future career decisions. Never underestimate the importance of knowing when you manager is bad one!

So potential mandates aside you don't have to tell them - but it's likely to be in your best interest to do so.

Peers:

For your peers I think it's best judged on the culture in your team - if they generally don't discuss the reasons they are off work ill then you probably don't have to.

The scenario where in my opionion there's a professional/ethical consideration to telling them is where you're intending to attend work in person after the booster even if you have mild symptoms as a side effect. In that scenario you're potentially causing people anxiety if they mistake your booster-symptoms for actual COVID, which is not nice. There's also the option to boost your reputation as a team player - everyone hates the people who come in to work sick and then pass it to everyone else, but the person who has a non-contagious issue (just feels like crap) but doesn't want to let the side down? Especially when their abscence would have loaded work on the rest of the team - that person people tend to like and respect!

And the booster-shot is a great opportunity for that if you wanted - you're no danger to anyone around you and the side effects generally pass in a day or two regardless of what you do about it. Even if you didn't want to come in afterwards - you can still get some of the goodies by giving them advance notice and helping to mitigate any potential problems from your abscence, you also sow a little quid-pro-quo with your peers that when they go they'll be more inclined to give you a heads up and save you from having it sprung on you!

So in both cases I think the pros outweigh the cons. You don't have to - your medical info: your choice but giving an advance notice generally helps people and obfuscating what the reason is (i.e. that it's the booster) is a waste of time. The vast majority of people are going to know what it is for - and since the vast majority of the population is going to be getting the same shot about the only private medical information you disclose is that you don't have one of the conditions that makes you medically unable to be vaccinated.

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You are at the intersection of several professional principles:

  • Keep your employer informed of all relevant information, unless it is privileged by laws or regulations.
  • Keep the confidentiality of information you learn at work, again unless there are laws or regulations.
  • Contribute to a non-hostile work climate.

Medical information about yourself or a co-worker is generally privileged by law. On the other hand, management needs to know that (and how long) you are going to be absent. Details vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but if you are declared unfit for work by your physician, you are usually required to declare that fact ASAP, but not the diagnosis which caused it.

If there is a good workplace climate in your team, you might voluntarily share some health information along with scheduling information. I even learned the medical history of a co-worker's cat through the series of vet appointments! This depends on having a good climate, and it is never required. There is a risk that a habit of disclosure singles out anyone who does not participate.

Having learned such things, it would be the duty of the co-workers to keep quiet about it unless there are safety aspects involved (e.g. operating dangerous machinery while impaired). I might know the diagnosis of a co-worker and tell somebody in another team "medical absence, she is probably back early next week, can it wait that long?" This answer is much more useful than "I cannot say anything, ask her manager."

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If you are afraid that getting vaccinated affects your ability to work the next day, go ahead by all means and give them advance warning. I was very slightly affected, not in a way that stopped me from working, just a bit unpleasant - I can imagine some people have worse effects and get knocked out for a day, so telling them not to make plans that require your presence would be a good idea.

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Let me disagree with the other answers here:

Do NOT disclose any other information besides you having a medical appointment.

There is nothing you can gain from it. If there's local Covid requirements as a different answer suggested, then you can still show proof of your shots later on.

On the other hand: the covid shots are a very touchy subject in a lot of countries. Even if you think they are nutters, you don't want to make them an enemy for this.

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