There’s a troubling new COVID-19 analysis, released by the Human Rights Campaign, that revealed only 42% of LGBTQ adults said they were “very likely” to get vaccinated. That number is too small to begin with, but perhaps even more troubling is that broken down by race, the numbers get worse. In the same analysis, only 39% of Latinx LGBTQ adults and 29% of Black LGBTQ adults said they were very likely to get vaccinated.
The main reasons that LGBTQ people said they were not likely to get vaccinated are twofold: concerns that the vaccine may not be effective and concerns that there may be potential unknown side effects. Both of those reasons, while understandable, are not backed up by science.
First, the vaccines are effective. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were found to be 95% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been found to be 80% effective. Both of those percentages are extremely good. But even better is that all three vaccines were found to be 100% effective at preventing severe symptoms and death from COVID-19. While it is true that we don’t know whether or not the vaccine will provide lifetime immunity or immunity over multiple years, there is undisputed evidence that the vaccines are effective.
Second, for nearly all recipients, the side effects of the vaccines are minimal. Yes, there are a few outstanding cases where people had severe reactions to it, but those people had a history of allergic reactions. For most people, the first dose of Pfizer and Moderna comes with a sore arm, while the second dose can come with one or two days of flu-like symptoms. After those two days, you are 95% less likely to contract COVID-19. It’s not rocket science. The vaccines work.
However, it is important to recognize that healthcare inequality affects everyone in this country, but especially LGBTQ people of color. Many Black and Latinx LGBTQ people don’t have healthcare. Many don’t have a regular doctor or hospital. Without those things, it can be hard to know where to go to get the vaccine, especially considering the mess that the vaccine rollout and distribution has been around the country.
That’s why it is crucial that all LGBTQ organizations, whether it’s national organizations like HRC or local organizations like community centers, health centers, and neighborhood businesses, need to explain to people that vaccination is safe, effective, and important. We need signs in windows, we need posts on social media, and we need vaccine drives similar to the one that Mazzoni Center did at the John C Anderson apartment building. We especially need those things in neighborhoods that are not Center City.
The only way we will start to recover from COVID-19 economically and socially is if enough people get vaccinated and the spread begins to permanently slow. Until that happens, not much we’ll change. So let’s all do our best to encourage our friends, family, and neighbors to get the vaccine. It’s the fastest course back to normalcy.