L.G.B.T.Q. People Face Increased Risks From Covid, but Many Don’t Want the Vaccine

Evidence suggests that some sexual and gender minorities — especially people of color — are hesitant to get vaccinated due to mistrust of the medical establishment.


By Christina Caron

At her last doctor’s appointment, Erica Tyler, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., joked that she didn’t want to get vaccinated for Covid-19 “because another foot might grow out of my forehead. And I’m not ready for that.”

Ms. Tyler, 68, a cancer survivor who has diabetes and high blood pressure, lost her wife to a heart attack nearly a year ago and has been staying home throughout the pandemic to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus. But when the vaccine became available, she did not rejoice.

“I was resistant,” Ms. Tyler said. She described feeling unsettled by the push to vaccinate minorities, especially given how Black people have been underserved or mistreated by the medical establishment in the past.

“I felt that they were trying to storm people who they wanted to eliminate out of society,” she said, namely “the elderly and the Black people.”

Research has shown that sexual and gender minorities, and especially people of color, are more vulnerable to becoming infected with the coronavirus and also more likely to have underlying conditions that could make them severely ill if they were to contract Covid-19. But many of the very people who are most at risk within these communities are also hesitant to take the vaccine, according to a recent study and interviews with health care workers as well as people of color who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

“There’s an overarching mistrust around vaccination,” said Anthony Fortenberry, the chief nursing officer of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, which provides medical care to L.G.B.T.Q. people in New York City. “They’re not sure if they want to get it.”

Each of the three Covid vaccines currently available in the United States has been shown to be remarkably good at preventing serious illness and death. At Callen-Lorde, Mr. Fortenberry said he has counseled patients about the efficacy of the vaccine, eventually easing their fears.

“They are not quick conversations,” he said. “They are addressing someone’s personal experiences and their history of discrimination.”

But not everyone has a health care provider with whom they feel comfortable sharing their concerns.

“I worry that without those conversations happening, people will continue to not get vaccinated,” he said.

So far about 54 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, and of those nearly 28 million have been fully vaccinated. At Callen-Lorde and other medical centers that treat many L.G.B.T.Q. patients, health care workers say they have seen a higher demand for the vaccine among white patients compared to patients of color.

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