Pandemic hero Dr Rachel Levine must work hard to ensure coronavirus vaccine reaches LGBT+ folk. Here’s why

Vic Parsons
·2-min read

More than 125 LGBT+ groups have warned that coronavirus vaccine outreach must target LGBT+ communities to overcome their mistrust of the medical establishment.

The experts are calling on the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers to ensure that LGBT+ communities are incorporated into the plan for the US rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, warning that LGBT+ people are at higher risk of contracting the virus and more likely to have suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.

Targeted and comprehensive messaging campaigns must focus on LGBT+ communities to ensure they participate in the rollout, the groups say.

“Because they are more likely to hold frontline jobs and have certain chronic conditions, LGBTQI people may be disproportionately vulnerable to novel coronavirus infection and to complications should they develop COVID-19,” said Sean Cahill, the director of health policy research at The Fenway Institute, in a statement.

“This is especially true of Black, Latinx and indigenous LGBTQI people and LGBTQI older adults.”

The signatories to the letter include interACT: Advocates for Intersex Youth, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the National LGBTQ Task Force.

The open letter to Pennsylvania health secretary Dr Rachel Levine says: “Many older LGBTQI people experience medical mistrust because when they were coming of age the medical establishment pathologised same-sex behaviour and gender diversity.

“Many sexual and gender minority individuals were subjected to shock therapy or lobotomies, or were committed to psychiatric institutions with the support of mainstream medicine and psychiatry.

“Intersex people also often have challenging relationships with the health care system. Many have experienced medical trauma related to medically unnecessary cosmetic surgeries conducted without their consent, and unnecessary and objectifying medical examinations.”

As a result, “many LGBTQI people may be reluctant to access the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available”, the letter says.

Health officials must also collect data on those given the vaccine that includes LGBT+ identities, the groups urge: “This data will help ensure that prevention efforts, testing, and care services are effectively meeting the needs of LGBTQI people.”