Throughout the pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign has spotlighted the unique needs of the LGBTQ community, particularly in Black and Brown communities. Through extensive and in-depth research and by creating new resources, HRC has sought to help LGBTQ folks navigate the turmoil and complexities brought on by the global coronavirus health crisis.
With the introduction of vaccines, HRC is now focused on ensuring LGBTQ communities have equitable access to the vaccine. This spring, as part of the organization’s ongoing efforts to support the LGBTQ community during the pandemic, the HRC Foundation launched “For Ourselves, For Each Other: Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic,” a public education campaign designed to connect the LGBTQ community to the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the coronavirus vaccines and their public distribution.
Understanding the unique challenges the LGBTQ community faces, “For Ourselves, For Each Other” addresses the prevalent and valid medical mistrust within the LGBTQ community, particularly in multiply marginalized communities like Brown and Black communities. Previous efforts include a town hall discussion with Dr. Fauci, a separate article previously published in Equality magazine, and a social media campaign designed to readily and easily connect followers with dire information about the vaccines.
“The pandemic has negatively impacted and worsened the existing health and economic disparities of LGBTQ people, particularly communities of color,” said Ty Cobb, HRC Foundation senior director of strategic initiatives & research. “This campaign was critical to our community’s recovery to increase our confidence in and access to the COVID-19 vaccines.”
During the town hall discussion, Dr. Fauci addressed the medical mistrust among Brown and Black folks and the LGBTQ community, which can impede folks from receiving the vaccine, by stating he does not “blow off the concern.”
“I always have a great deal of respect for the hesitancy of people who, historically, have a good reason to really question [the medical system],” said Dr. Fauci. “I understand your concern. That’s not something I’m going to push back on. Let me explain to you why we feel the vaccine is safe, and then you just go through the facts.”
Still, with the medical industry having an extensive history of performing unwanted medical procedures on marginalized communities such as Black and Brown communities and the LGBTQ community, medical mistrust is perpetuated.
“The medical mistrust in Black and Brown communities is rooted in individual and firsthand experiences, such as the infamous Tuskegee syphilis trials,” said J. Maurice McCants- Pearsall, director of HRC Foundation’s HIV & Health Equity program. “Having Dr. Fauci and other medical experts acknowledge this mistrust helps others understand that the vaccine is far from a medical experiment. The folks in these communities will most likely begin getting vaccinated once they see people they trust getting vaccinated.”
In an effort to help counteract the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and become better acquainted with the contributing factors, HRC joined the Equitable Vaccination Advisory Council, part of the Rockefeller Foundation's Equity-First Vaccination Initiative. As part of HRC’s participation, the organization will be working to understand and address the barriers faced particularly by BIPOC LGBTQ people when it comes to accessing vaccines.
While vaccinations are ramping up, disparities among LGBTQ people continue to exist regarding the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness. While research data is limited, the HRC Foundation’s research from March 2021 shows that while 42% of LGBTQ adults say they are very likely to get vaccinated, only 29% of Black LGBTQ adults and 38% of Latinx LGBTQ adults say they are very likely to get vaccinated. For Bi+ women, that percentage drops to 32%. Additionally, the HRC Foundation’s research data also shows that 53% of transgender adults say they are very likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine, including 46% of transgender adults of color, compared to 39% of the general adult population.
The data suggests that, collectively, the LGBTQ community continues to lack full trust in the vaccines’ development and, thus, are wary about inoculation. HRC found that some in the community cite a wide array of concerns. Despite the vaccines being free of cost, many LGBTQ adults have concerns about the cost of the vaccine, especially LGBTQ adults of color, bisexual adults and transgender adults, largely becuase prior to the pandemic, LGBTQ people experienced higher levels of poverty than non-LGBTQ people, with LGBTQ adults of color, bisexual adults and transgender adults facing the highest rates of poverty. The data also found that 54% of LGBTQ adults are concerned with the unknown side effects of the vaccine.
“For Ourselves, For Each Other” also consisted of two comprehensive resources with additional information regarding the vaccine and its roll-out. One report provides information on accessing the vaccine, including inequity in vaccine distribution and how to schedule an appointment. The other explains the benefits and safety of the vaccine, including short-term effects of full inoculation and whether it causes infertility.
In the early stages of the pandemic, the HRC Foundation released reports addressing the various COVID- 19-related issues directly affecting the community, including intimate partner violence, caring for LGBTQ elders during COVID-19 and supporting LGBTQ students while learning remotely, providing an overview of these issues as well as helpful resources to help alleviate concerns.
“The HRC Foundation will continue to use the best research and knowledge from professionals and leaders working directly in deeply impacted communities to ensure LGBTQ people know how to access vaccines and have the information they need to make informed decisions about the vaccines and their health,” said Cobb. For more information, visit hrc.im/ COVID19Resources.