COVID-19 vaccines and the LGBTQ+ community

I have a confession: At the end of 2020, when the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the FDA, I was hesitant to get one myself. Although working in public health and a firm believer in vaccines to keep our community healthy, I couldn’t wait to put something in my body that felt so new. I thought, “What if the vaccine is dangerous?” “What about long term side effects?”

I am part of the LGBTQ + community. Our story may help explain why I hesitated.

Are LGBTQ + people more reluctant to get vaccinated?

In March a New York Times The article reported that LGBTQ + people are more hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. A Human Rights Campaign research study reported mixed results: While LGBTQ + people overall are more likely to be vaccinated, certain subgroups, such as LGBTQ + people of color and bisexual women , are less likely to be vaccinated.

LGBTQ + people have good reason to be hesitant about vaccines. Historically, this population has experienced – and continues to experience – discrimination in multiple contexts, including in the health care arena. At the same time, this population is more vulnerable to COVID-19 (see this study and an earlier blog post I wrote). LGBTQ + people who are also people of color may be even more hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, due to trauma and oppression based on multiple crossed marginalized identities that pave the way for mistrust in healthcare. health and medical research. We can include racism, transphobia, biphobia and homophobia among these oppressions.

Weighing the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine

When I was trying to decide whether to get the vaccine, I started reading about the vaccine from reputable sources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I have also spoken to people I know and trust, such as close friends, family and fellow doctors. I asked them, “Will you receive the vaccine when it is offered to you?” All gave me a “yes!” Resounding. Most shared this reasoning: Although we still don’t know the long-term side effects, this vaccine is similar to other vaccines that have been around for some time, and the benefits of getting the vaccine far outweigh the risks. become seriously ill or even dying from COVID-19.

When the vaccine was offered to me earlier this year, I made my appointment immediately, without hesitation, and didn’t look back. As soon as I received the first vaccine, and certainly when I was fully immunized two weeks after my second vaccine, I felt tremendous relief. I also felt empowered to take an important step to protect myself, my family and my community from COVID-19. I now feel more secure and freer in my daily life. I go to stores (with a mask) without feeling anxious, and have been able to visit in person with other fully vaccinated people, like my mother, without a mask.

If you are having a hard time deciding whether to get the COVID-19 vaccine, this decision-making grid may be useful (note: automatic download). The grid shows you the short and long term benefits and risks of not getting vaccinated compared to currently available vaccines.

Why the vaccine is essential for LGBTQ + communities

Many “pandemics” have already wiped out a large number of the LGBTQ + community: HIV / AIDS, violence, suicide. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused disproportionate harm to LGBTQ + people (see this study and report). LGBTQ + seniors and people of color are most at risk for serious, life-threatening illness from COVID-19. If each of us takes steps to get immunized, we can prevent more deaths and health problems in our communities.

How can you afford to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

  • Learn about what COVID-19 vaccines are, how they work, and why they’re safe.
  • Talk to trusted experts and people you know about your fears.
  • Currently, anyone in the United States who is 16 years of age or older is eligible for the vaccine, so you can make an appointment at home to get the vaccine.

Additional Resources

  • More information on COVID-19 and vaccines:
    • Fenway Health COVID-19 Resources
    • COVID-19 CDC Information
  • Ways to Avoid COVID-19 Vaccine Scams
  • What you can do after being vaccinated

Post COVID-19 vaccines and the LGBTQ + community first appeared on Harvard Health Blog.

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Jothi Venkat

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