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An Important Note on the COVID-19 Vaccines
When discussing the COVID-19 vaccines, it is important to acknowledge the understandable mistrust of the medical community held by many Black, Brown and LGBTQ people. The medical community has an extensive history of performing unwanted medical procedures on LGBTQ people, and many also fear being discriminated against by medical staff once their identities are disclosed. Many Black and Brown people recall stories of medical abuse that were inflicted on their communities. While acknowledging this mistrust, the Human Rights Campaign seeks to answer community questions about the COVID-19 vaccines so as to better protect LGBTQ people, especially those in communities of color.
What are the available vaccines?
The FDA has issued emergency use authorizations for three COVID-19 vaccines, the first developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, the second by Moderna and the third by Johnson and Johnson. These vaccines have been approved after thorough testing to confirm that they are safe and effective.
How can I get an appointment for the vaccine?
The CDC has created a tool that points you to guidance on getting vaccinated in your state.
Many states and local communities are also administering vaccines at designated vaccination sites like pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens.
I’m a college student who lives out of state. Where do I qualify to receive the vaccines?
Some states require proof of residency to receive the vaccines, but others allow out-of-state students, workers and undocumented people to be vaccinated without these requirements. It is encouraged that you visit your state health department to view their COVID-19 vaccine eligibility requirements.
Why is the vaccine rollout so slow? When will more doses come?
The COVID-19 vaccines were developed with unprecedented speed. Whereas previous vaccines took years or even decades to develop, these vaccines took only nine months to reach FDA authorization. However, this rapid development led to difficulties in creating a comprehensive rollout plan by federal and state governments. Thankfully, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced an effort to ramp up weekly distribution by 16% in order to vaccinate around 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.
What are the age requirements to get the vaccine?
The FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for persons aged 16 and older and the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines for those 18 and older. Trials are currently underway to determine if the COVID-19 vaccines are safe for minors.
Will I have to pay to get the vaccine?
According to the CDC, “Vaccine doses purchased with U.S. taxpayer dollars will be given to the American people at no cost.” Although individual providers may charge an administration fee for the vaccine, no one can be denied vaccination if they are unable to pay an administration fee.
Will we reach herd immunity?
According to the World Health Organization, “‘Herd immunity’, also known as ‘population immunity’, is the indirect protection from an infectious disease that happens when a population is immune either through vaccination or immunity developed through previous infection.” Scientists believe herd immunity will be reached by late summer or early fall. In the meantime, we advise you to continue taking precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing while in public.
Will we need a booster shot each year, similar to the MMR vaccine?
Experts say that COVID-19 booster shots may be necessary in the future. Because new strains of COVID-19 are currently emerging, it is possible that booster shots will be needed to fully protect from COVID-19 each year. Pfizer and BioNTech are currently developing a booster shot in response to these new strains.
Why is there so much inequity with vaccine distribution? When will more doses come?
Disparities in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are due to the systemic inequalities of America’s economic and public health care systems. However, the Biden-Harris Administration has set an ambitious policy goal to vaccinate around 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall.
Since the COVID-19 vaccine was developed in a year, why is there still no vaccine for HIV?
The FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccines were created using new mRNA technology, which allowed for a quicker development time. This mRNA technology will lead to advances in vaccine development for other viruses. However, HIV is a different virus from COVID-19 and presents different challenges to the body’s immune system. Typical vaccines imitate the body’s natural immune response to the virus they are developed for. Unfortunately, there are no known cases of a person living with HIV developing an immune response that clears HIV from the body naturally. Moderna has announced that it is developing HIV vaccine candidates based on mRNA technology. The FDA has also recently approved Cabenuva, the first long-lasting HIV drug combo. Cabenuva is a series of two shots per month that can replace the daily pills currently used to control HIV.