As the U.S. reaches over 133 million administrations of the COVID-19 vaccine, most Americans appear to be thoroughly eager to gain immunity to the virus. A recent study, however, found that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are far more likely to distrust the vaccine––and with good reason. To some in the LGBTQ community, the US government’s push to vaccinate minorities seems like “they [are] trying to storm people who they [want] to eliminate out of society.” To others, the absence of data from leading vaccine manufacturers on effects of the vaccine on those with varying gender identity and sexual orientation poses an issue; as one transgender person questions, “how does [the COVID-19 vaccine] affect someone who’s been on estrogen for the last 20 years?… there’s no data at all.” While doctors assert that the vaccines will not interact with hormones or silicone, much of the LGBTQ community does not have access to voice concerns to healthcare professionals, which leaves a great “fear in the community”.
The issue’s magnitude increases tenfold for LGBTQ+ people of color. From the Tuskegee experiment––where hundreds of black men were told they would receive syphilis treatment, only to be lied to and provided placebos instead––to forced sterilization of Native American women in the 1960’s and 70’s, people of color have a fraught relationship with healthcare. African-Americans have also been proven to receive poorer care, and as a result, studies have shown that the Black community tends to harbor distrust for the wider healthcare system. This fear applies in the context of the COVID-19 vaccine as well; within the LGBTQ+ community, the aforementioned study also found race to be a significant factor in distrust of the vaccine.
With these many legitimate fears about the COVID-19 vaccine, its rapid rollout may be far more dangerous than it seems. Forcing minorities to receive the vaccine isn’t effective, but this leaves the question of how such fears should be assuaged, and whose responsibility it is to assuage them. Individual doctors have already tried their best––it may be necessary for the US government as a whole to reform how healthcare treats minorities.