Discrimination in health care raises LGBTQ+ concerns over COVID-19 vaccine

May 3, 2021 | Hannah Sanders-SGN
Discrimination in health care raises LGBTQ+ concerns over COVID-19 vaccine

For over a year now, the LGBTQ+ community in the United States has in particular struggled with the coronavirus pandemic. Financial and racial inequalities, as well as discrimination in health care settings, have all been evolving issues for several decades now, and they have continued to weave their way through this pandemic.

Most importantly, during the midst of some of the toughest days in modern history, these inequalities have clearly displayed how a broken system has hit those who are most vulnerable the hardest.

On February 2, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report stating, "Sexual minority persons in the United States have higher self-reported prevalences of several underlying health conditions associated with severe outcomes from COVID-19 than do heterosexual persons, both in the overall population and among racial/ethnic minority groups."

These underlying health conditions include obesity, type 2 diabetes, and smoking. As a result, members of the LGBTQ+ community have greater rates of cancer, asthma, stroke, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - all of which are health conditions associated with severe COVID-19-related outcomes.

In addition, the report described how those who are both racial and sexual minorities are at the highest risk for severe outcomes from the coronavirus, due to immense financial and environmental inequalities.

Overall, those who are sexual minorities are at a greater risk for illness because of the abundance of barriers that taint our society.

In March of 2021, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released a data analysis as part of the HRC Foundation's educational vaccine campaign, "For Ourselves, For Each Other: Getting to the Other Side of the Pandemic." The campaign's goal is to educate the LGBTQ+ community, particularly LGBTQ+ people of color, when it comes to COVID, in order to address any medical mistrust, and to answer any questions community members may have.

Part of the data analysis the HRC presented contained the rates and concerns of LGBTQ+ members in relation to receiving one of the coronavirus vaccines:

(INSERT BAR GRAPH WITH COVID CONCERNS) The mistrust of the testing and approval process for COVID-19 vaccines stems from a history of discrimination and inadequate care in the health care setting. Unfortunately, not every city in the United States is as accepting of the LGBTQ+ community as Seattle is, and in many parts of the country, transphobia, homophobia, and racism are all too abundant in health care facilities.

In 2010, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force conducted a study called the "National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on Health and Health Care." The research found that many individuals who are Transgender or nonbinary frequently and consistently experienced discrimination while accessing health care, including disrespect, harassment, violence, and the denial of services. Study participants even reported barriers to preventive medicine, routine medical care, and emergency medical care - in addition to a lack of Transgender-related services, and ignorance when it comes to Transgender medical needs.

(INSERT LINE GRAPH FROM 2010 STUDY) While that research is over a decade old, health care discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community has recently been aggravated by an increase in anti-Transgender bills introduced across the US. This year, Arkansas was the first state to prohibit medical treatment for Transgender minors, and it most likely will not be the last state to do so.

The politicization of health care and visible discrimination in health care settings continues to affect 14 million LGBTQ+ adults and 2 million LGBTQ+ youth in the United States: Is it really still such a mystery as to why some LGBTQ+ people are hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine?