Trans-led organizations team up to increase access to COVID-19 vaccine, address hesitancy

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Several trans-led organizations are teaming up with St. John's Well Child and Family Center to increase access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

"We provide testing in all of our clinics and in all of our pop-up clinics, and we invite everyone to come down and get vaccinated," said Kazumi Yamaguchi, associate Director of the Transgender Health Program for St John's Well Child and Family Center.

There are only a few states that collect data on gender identity or sexual orientation. Some advocates want data to be required, in part to learn more about access and acceptance of the vaccine. While others think it should at least be optional.

"In the trans community, data is scarce. It's almost like digging through a haystack to find data," said Queen Shannon Mardell of the Unique Woman's Coalition. "So I think that is so important, and that also helps funds come through for organizations."

One recent survey of sexual and gender minorities found most participants were accepting, while white participants were more likely than Black participants to get the vaccine.

Medical distrust and social concerns were connected to lower vaccine acceptance, according to its findings.

"I think the critical issue around the vaccine is that you have to have trusted messengers and trusted service providers," said Jim Mangia, president and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center.

Jazzmun Crayton of Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team (APAIT) explained they are on the ground meeting some of people's most basic needs, highlighting the importance of seeing the bigger picture.

"People oftentimes are not interested in navigating anything else if their basic needs are not being met. If they cannot eat and sleep and be clothed and have some comfort. They're not looking out for a vaccine. They're not interested. They don't even care about COVID-19," said Crayton. "It's getting in the psyche of people's mind and saying, 'Look, you're worth it. And we believe that you're worth it. We're willing to do the work that it takes in order for you to get what you need.'"

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