2S/LGBTQIA+ people in Canada had extremely high rates of vaccination against COVID-19. Thanks to the engagement of queer communities, we are all better protected. However, challenges regarding vaccine access continue for marginalized groups, and booster vaccine uptake is markedly lower than the initial vaccine series.
Data from Our Health: Canada-wide 2SLGBTQQIA+ Community Study, which recruited participants from April to September 2022, is shedding light on the successes and challenges of vaccination in queer communities. The study is the largest multilingual community health survey in Canada dedicated to Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, and other sexual and gender minorities.
Queer people have often been on the forefront of community responses to public health crises and data from the Our Health study confirms this trend: Over 97% of 2S/LGBTQIA+ people got the initial vaccine series against COVID-19 at the time of survey completion.
Despite the success of uptake for the initial vaccine series, the pandemic has outpaced the optimal protection offered by vaccines. In response, public health institutions across the country (and the world) are offering booster vaccines to reduce further harms from COVID-19.
Initially prioritized for those most vulnerable to COVID, boosters are for everyone. According to Our Health data, around a quarter (24%) of queer folks had not yet received a booster dose at the time of survey completion. Vaccines (both boosters and initial doses) are still widely available through public health units across the country. To learn more about options to access a COVID-19 shot, visit the Government of Canada’s vaccination appointment finder resource page.
Another important finding from Our Health was the need to do more in addressing barriers experienced by Black and Indigenous folks when it comes to COVID-19 vaccination: 75% of non-Black participants received a booster vaccine, compared to 56% for Black folks. Similarly, only 54% of Indigenous folks received a booster vaccine whereas 77% of non-Indigenous folks did. The Canadian public health system's history of violating the right to informed consent of Indigenous communities has also understandably contributed to vaccine hesitancy1. Our Health findings reflect what we’ve known since the beginning of the pandemic: many racialized people are experiencing greater harms as a result of COVID-19. While harms weren’t experienced the same way across racialized groups, many also faced increased harassment and discrimination.
Our data also demonstrate that people experiencing housing precarity or homelessness were among the least likely to have accessed COVID-19 vaccines. Only half (51%) reported accessing a booster vaccine.
COVID-19 demonstrated the importance of collective protection; if any part of the community is left behind, there is increased risk of transmission. Vaccination campaigns must meet folks where they are at. Queer people’s collective action helped keep us protected during the height of this crisis, and as our relationship with COVID-19 changes - with boosters at our disposal - our solidarity with each other can keep us protected until this emergency ends.
*Our Health is funded by Canada’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force and the Public Health Agency of Canada, with testing support provided by the National Microbiology Laboratory. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.
1: Mosby, Ian and Jaris Swidrovich. Medical Experimentation and the roots of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Indigenous peoples in Canada. CMAJ 2021 March 15;193:E3813. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.210112. Accessed Feb 10 2023.