I have a confession: in late 2020, when the first COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the FDA, I was reluctant to get one myself. Although I worked in the public health field and believed strongly in vaccines to keep our community healthy, I was concerned about bringing something into my body that seemed 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 could explain why I hesitated.
Are LGBTQ + people more reluctant to get the vaccine?
In March a New York Times One article reported that LGBTQ + people were more reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. A research study conducted by the human rights campaign reported mixed results: while LGBTQ + people overall are more likely to be vaccinated, certain subgroups such as color LGBTQ + people and bisexual women are less likely to be vaccinated.
LGBTQ + people have good reason to hesitate about vaccines. In the past, this population has been and has been discriminated against in various situations, including in the healthcare sector. At the same time, this population is more prone to COVID-19 (see this study and an earlier blog post I wrote). LGBTQ + individuals who are also people of color may be even more reluctant to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as trauma and oppression come from multiple overlapping marginalized identities that form the basis of suspicion in healthcare and medical research . We can count racism, transphobia, biphobia, and homophobia among such oppressions.
Weighing the Risks and Benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine
When trying to decide whether to get the vaccine, I started reading about the vaccine from trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I’ve also spoken to people I know and trust, such as close friends, family members, and fellow doctors. I asked her, “Will you get the vaccine if you are offered it?” Everyone gave me a resounding “Yes!” Most shared this rationale: While we still don’t know about long-term side effects, this vaccine is similar to other vaccines that have been around for a while, and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of getting seriously ill or even contracting COVID- 19 die.
When I was offered the vaccine earlier this year, I immediately booked my appointment without hesitation and didn’t look back. As soon as I got the first shot and was fully vaccinated two weeks after my second shot, I felt profoundly relieved. 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 free in my daily life. I go to stores (wearing a mask) without feeling anxious and I have been able to personally visit other fully vaccinated people like my mother without a mask.
If you are having trouble deciding on the COVID-19 vaccine, this decision grid can be helpful (note: automatic download). The grid walks you through the benefits as well as the short term and long term risks of not receiving the vaccine compared to the vaccines currently available.
Why the vaccine is critical to LGBTQ + communities
Numerous “pandemics” have already wiped out large numbers of the LGBTQ + community: HIV / AIDS, violence, suicide. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has already caused disproportionate damage to LGBTQ + people (see this study and this report). LGBTQ + seniors and people of color are at the greatest risk of serious, potentially life-threatening illness from COVID-19. If each of us takes steps to get vaccinated, we can prevent more deaths and negative health outcomes in our communities.
How can you empower yourself to receive the COVID-19 vaccine?
- Find out what COVID-19 vaccines are, how they work, and why they’re safe.
- Talk to trusted experts and people in your life about your fears.
- Currently, anyone in the US who is 16 years or older is eligible for the vaccine, so you can schedule an appointment to live to get vaccinated.