Queer people more likely to vaccinate early, embrace COVID response, data show

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 29, 2023
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Data show that LGBTQ people were more likely to get a COVID vaccination early. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Data show that LGBTQ people were more likely to get a COVID vaccination early. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Gay and lesbian adults were more likely to take up COVID-19 vaccination early - and less likely to distrust the jabs, but nonetheless data collection has made statistics hard to come by, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data was collected in the summer and fall of 2021, based on responses from 153,062 people for the National Immunization Survey Adult COVID Module.

Gay and lesbian adults reported higher vaccination coverage at that time - 85.4% - than did heterosexual adults - 76.3%.

On the gender identity question, 75.5% of people who identified as transgender or nonbinary were vaccinated, compared to 76.7% of those who said they were not transgender or nonbinary.

The data show "certain attitudes and experiences" varied between LGBTQs and heterosexual, cisgender people.

A 2022 study, "Queer Politics of a Pandemic: LGBTQ + People's Conceptions of COVID-19's Politicization," shed some light on this. It found that 43 LGBTQ+ interviewees had collectivist ideas of how to best respond to the pandemic, which the study contrasted with responses based in "rugged individualism" that were associated with the right-wing.

"Through the 'underdog' framework,' LGBTQ+ people held strong convictions to science-informed political beliefs, which informed their critiques of inadequate government leadership," the study abstract states. "Participants also engaged in ideological resistance to harmful individualistic rhetoric through an emphasis on collectivism. The divisive politicization of the pandemic shaped numerous social stressors that LGBTQ+ people adapted to using various strategies to maintain their mental health."

According to the module data, among gay men and lesbians, 56.8% reported feeling very or moderately concerned about COVID-19, compared to 48.1% of heterosexuals. Again, cisgender people and trans people had similar percentages agreeing - 48.4% and 49.4%, respectively.

Gays and lesbians reported 76.3% confidence in vaccine safety, compared to 63.9% of heterosexuals. (Trans people answered "yes" to that question 62.8% of the time, compared to cisgender people 64.7% of the time.)

The percentage of gays and lesbians who reported that getting the vaccine was very or somewhat important was 10 points higher (90.8%) than among heterosexuals (63.9%). Among cis and trans people there were similar percentages agreeing - 64.7% and 62.8%, respectively.

Data hard to come by

The lack of routine sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data collection at the national and state levels has made it difficult to find data about COVID vaccination specific to the LGBTQ community. As the Bay Area Reporter previously reported, the California Department of Public Health did not track vaccine uptake by SOGI.

Despite regulatory and legislative efforts to track COVID testing and infections in LGBTQs, the collection of accurate SOGI data on the ground didn't happen en masse.

The B.A.R. reported that Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, state public health officer and director at the California Department of Public Health, said at the time that "Unfortunately, it's [SOGI collection] been difficult to implement for a variety of reasons, and certainly across the country, including in California, even though the law has passed we have implemented it at the state level with the testing and then when you sign up for a vaccine to get registered you'll be asked those questions. However, the data is not at the quality that we want. ... We still have a long way to go in terms of the quality of the data."

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