The initial crush of people eager to get a coronavirus vaccine is starting to slow down. From a peak of 4.2 million doses on a single day in early April, the numbers for daily vaccinations is now estimated at about 2.5 million.
That’s a lot, but with more vaccine available, the dip indicates that the nation is starting to run into the remaining pool of people who just aren’t sure if they want to get a vaccine at all.
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That pool includes LGBTQ people. A study released in February found that “medical mistrust, social concern, altruism, and race were significantly associated with COVID-19 vaccine acceptance” among an online survey of 1,350 individuals.
The survey had its limitations: participants were drawn from an HIV prevention study, so 96 percent of them were cisgender males. A welcome change from most surveys, minorities were overwhelmingly represented here. Perhaps most significantly, the survey was conducted before any vaccines were approved and their data made public.
Still, the survey concluded that mistrust in the medical community, particularly among Black people, had made some gay, bisexual or queer people less likely to get a vaccine. That mistrust has long historical roots and is still waiting to be fully addressed by the medical establishment.
The leeriness from that mistrust casts a shadow over even good medical treatments, like the coronavirus vaccines. That’s especially unfortunate, given the disproportionate toll that COVID-19 has taken on the LGBTQ community.
Several studies have found that COVID-related lockdowns had a greater impact on LGBTQ people than the population at large. A UK study found that more than two-thirds of the LGBTQ asked showed symptoms of depression. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that LGBTQ people were more likely to have suffered a COVID-related job loss.
The impact has been even greater on LGBTQ people of color. According to a Williams Institute study, LGBTQ people of color were twice as likely as white non-LGBTQ people to have tested positive for coronavirus.
Overcoming vaccine hesitancy is a long, arduous task. It starts with not belittling people’s reasons for holding off on getting the shot. After that, it’s a conversation about what the personal issues behind the hesitancy are and the benefits of being vaccinated.
The biggest benefit from the vaccine is that your odds of getting really sick, let along dying, from the virus plummet. With millions vaccinated, the shots have shown themselves incredibly effective against getting infected, let alone suffering the dire physical suffering the virus can cause.
It also prevents you from making others sick. One of the most pernicious attributes of the coronavirus is that as many as half of those infected don’t show any symptoms, but can pass a lethal dose of the virus onto others unwittingly.
Much of the personal turmoil the virus has caused in the LGBTQ community could be alleviated if the country was able to return to normal. The ability to socialize without fear and return to work would go a long way to lessen the mental health and economic impacts of the last year.
That includes a return to pre-pandemic attitudes toward sex. But it can also mean travel or just hanging out in the gayborhood.
Finally, getting a vaccine would get you out of some really questionable company. Among the biggest group of vaccine resisters are conservative white evangelicals. Many of the same leaders in that same group are attacking LGBTQ rights, and are also funding anti-vaccination efforts.
That should give anyone who has doubts plenty of reason to pause.