Data from CBRC’s Sex Now Survey show that gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer men and non-binary people (GBT2Q) were early adopters of the COVID-19 vaccine. Ninety-two percent of GBT2Q folks surveyed July to September 2021 had at least one vaccine, compared to 85%1 of the general population.
These findings align with other studies, including from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that show higher COVID-19 vaccination rates among queer people than their straight counterparts.2
“These high vaccination rates are encouraging, given the ability of vaccines to not just improve health outcomes for individuals but reduce the rates of COVID-19 in community,” says Michael Kwag, CBRC’s Acting Executive Director.
Is there a reason queer folks have been more receptive to vaccines? “It’s possible that diverse factors, like cultural values or political affiliation contributed to these findings,” says Kwag, “but one reason is perhaps more compelling than the rest: it’s not our first pandemic. For many queer people, public health efforts to prevent COVID-19 are reminiscent of those to prevent HIV/AIDS.”
For forty years, GBT2Q folks have been fighting our own pandemic and implementing—or advocating for—effective interventions to prevent transmission. For many of us, things like STI testing, or daily medications (such as HIV treatment, or PrEP) are routine activities that we engage in to promote health for ourselves and those around us.
Queer people have often been on the forefront of infectious disease prevention efforts, and it seems COVID-19 vaccination is no exception. Among the different motivations to get vaccinated, 85% of Sex Now respondents listed “protecting family and community” as a reason they would get immunized against COVID-19.
High vaccination rates are indeed something to be celebrated; however, the fact remains that addressing outcomes of COVID-19 for 2SLGBTQ+ people will be no small task. Earlier in the pandemic, experts flagged how unintended harms from restrictions could worsen existing health inequities.3 For example, social isolation and pandemic stress are likely worsening mental health challenges that disproportionately burden 2SLGBTQ+ people. Similarly, disruptions to health services, such as counselling and trans-affirming surgeries, could have lasting impacts for the health of queer people in Canada.
CBRC will be launching another national study in the coming months to learn more about the many ways COVID-19 has and continues to impact our communities. Data collected as part of the upcoming Our Health: Canada-Wide 2SLGBTQQIA+ Community Study will help CBRC make important recommendations to decision-makers on the programs, policies, services, and supports that are needed.
“As we continue to take efforts to reduce COVID-19 transmission and look forward to a future with fewer restrictions, we need to continue to respond to these inequities,” says Kwag. “When the threat of COVID-19 eventually fades, efforts to promote health equity for 2SLGBTQ+ people must carry on.”
In the meantime, we can applaud the high vaccination rates observed for queer people and encourage even more community members to take action against COVID-19. In getting vaccinated, we can each play a part in protecting ourselves, our communities, and the ones we love from the impacts of COVID-19.
1: 85% reflects the proportion of people in Canada aged 12+ who had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine as of September 19th, 2021. See: Public Health Agency of Canada. Canadian COVID-19 vaccination coverage report. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; December 23, 2021. https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/vaccination-coverage/
2: McNaghten A, Brewer NT, Hung M, et al. COVID-19 Vaccination Coverage and Vaccine Confidence by Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity — United States, August 29–October 30, 2021. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2022;71:171–176. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm7105a3
3: Brennan, D.J., Card, K., Collict, D. et al. How Might Social Distancing Impact Gay, Bisexual, Queer, Trans and Two-Spirit Men in Canada?. AIDS Behav 24, 2480–2482 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-020-02891-5