New Study Reveals LGBTQ+ People Leading the Way in COVID-19 Vaccinations

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday February 4, 2022

New Study Reveals LGBTQ+ People Leading the Way in COVID-19 Vaccinations
  (Source:Getty Images)

A new study suggests that LGTBQ+ people are leading the way when it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID-19, as well as being more concerned about the pandemic and more confident in the vaccines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

The reports, titled "COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage and Vaccine Confidence by Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity — United States, August 29—October 30, 2021," indicated that though there was some variation across ethnicities, the overall picture was fairly constant.

The results are surprising in some ways since, as the report noted, LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities that cisgender and heterosexual patients do not; or, as the report stated, "these persons historically experience challenges accessing, trusting, and receiving health care services."

And yet, data collected over two months from more than 150,000 survey respondents indicate that "gay or lesbian adults reported higher vaccination coverage overall (85.4%) than did heterosexual adults (76.3%)."

Transgender respondents, meantime, reported being vaccinated at roughly the same rate as cisgender people.

Higher rates of confidence in the vaccines against COVID-19 were also reflected in the results, which found that "Higher percentages of gay or lesbian adults and bisexual adults reported that they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (90.8% and 86.8%, respectively) compared with heterosexual adults (80.4%), and higher percentages of adults who identified as transgender or nonbinary reported they thought COVID-19 vaccine was very or somewhat important to protect oneself (83.2%) compared with those who did not identify as transgender or nonbinary (80.7%)," the report detailed.

An earlier study conducted between May and June of 2021 within the LGBTQ+ population of the United States found that "92% of LGBT respondents reported receiving [one or more doses] of a COVID-19 vaccine, but non-LGBT persons were not included" in that survey, giving the new report a context within the U.S. population as a whole.

But the survey echoed results from a recent study investigating COVID vaccination rates among the country's LGBTQ youth, which also showed higher rates of vaccination, even among those who were under-resourced. Where LGTBQ+ youth were not vaccinated, a common reason was family-related opposition to vaccination.

The report noted that LGBTQ+ people have higher rates of comorbidities that put them at greater risk when it comes to COVID-19 than do heterosexual and cisgender people.

A 2019 report from the Human Rights Campaign documented that among the health care disparities LGBTQ+ people experience are discrimination from medical providers (which can make people less willing to seek treatment) and higher rates of poverty and unemployment (which can put health care out of reach).

The report also noted that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to work in service industries, which increases their chances of exposure to the COVID-19 virus, and that they are less likely to have paid leave, making it harder to take time away when they or their family members are ill.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community are also more likely than cisgender and heterosexual peers to experience substance abuse, such as drug use and drinking problems, as well as smoking — all of which are considered to be comorbidities.

The report also took note of gaps in past data collection and resulting uncertainties.

"Although awareness of these risks and disparities is essential for public health intervention, data on [the LGBTQ+ population] are currently not widely available," the study detailed.

"Only two federally funded national surveys collect data on both sexual orientation and gender identity, with eight federally funded national surveys only collecting data on sexual orientation.

"Inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in surveys, as well as in COVID-19 testing, case reporting, and vaccination administration systems, can guide strategies to improve access to health care and prevention services among LGBT populations."

Another, although anecdotal, reason that might help account for the higher uptake of COVID vaccinations in the LGBTQ+ community: The ongoing AIDS pandemic and the memory of AIDS at its peak, when thousands were dying. As one recent news report put it, "some older members of the LGBT community say their shared experience of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s put them ahead of the curve throughout the pandemic."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.