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Two hundred LGBTQ Philadelphians will get their first vaccine doses on Tuesday at the William Way Community Center through a collaboration with HIV/AIDS healthcare provider Philadelphia FIGHT.
The April 6 clinic is among the first pop-up vaccination events specifically geared toward queer and trans Philadelphians.
William Way first opened slots last week to people who receive regular services at the community center. Thought its been posting on social media and sharing via email, the center is still working to fill its 200 appointments — so if you’re queer or trans and eligible under Phase 1A or 1B, there might be a space for you.
There’s no centralized link to schedule, but you can call the center at 267-225-7660 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you do it in advance, since the William Way clinic is not a walk-up operation.
Organizers say it’s crucial for LGBTQ people to access the vaccine from affirming spaces, since they often experience discrimination in the health care system.
“We know that LGBTQ folks, particularly trans folks, experience a lot of barriers trying to get culturally affirming care, and there’s reason to suggest the vaccine experience would be similar,” said Ally Richman, chief operating officer at William Way. The center is located at 1315 Spruce St. in the Gayborhood.
Research shows LGBTQ people more often have pre-existing conditions and lower incomes that have been correlated with COVID risk, plus they’re more likely to work in highly affected industries like food service and health care.
Another compounding factor is homophobia in health care. Roughly 25% of trans people have been denied equal treatment in medical settings, which can make them apprehensive to seek care again. Just this week, Arkansas denied trans youth access to gender-affirming healthcare, and Alabama is looking to do the same thing.
“We don’t want people going to get a vaccine and somebody misgendering them or something happening to them, and they just feel like, ‘I can’t come back to get the second dose,'” said Jane Shull, CEO of Philadelphia FIGHT
Philadelphia FIGHT started sending staffers to Center City gay bars last month, Shull said, to let workers know they were eligible and schedule them on the spot.
Other queer-affirming providers have been inoculating their own patients for the last few months. The Mazzoni Center helped vaccinate the John C. Anderson Apartments, an LGBTQ-friendly housing complex in Center City.
It’s not clear if widespread discrimination has made LGBTQ people any more apprehensive to get the vaccine.
Several LGBTQ Philadelphians told Billy Penn earlier this month that they wanted their own space to get the vaccine. Nationwide, some queer and trans people have expressed hesitancy. A Bryn Mawr researcher recently launched a local survey to see how LGBTQ Pennsylvanians feel about it.
Shull said she hasn’t seen hesitancy at Philadelphia FIGHT, where she estimated about half the patients are LGBTQ.
“I’ve heard stories of people who broke down crying when we called them,” she said. “We have tended to get oversubscribed, actually. There’s a lot of interest in the community.”
For now, there’s just one clinic scheduled at the William Way Center (plus the second-dose day in three weeks). But depending on the availability of doses, Shull is optimistic they could continue to host regular inoculations for LGBTQ people.
William Way COO Richman agreed. “Right now this is a one-time thing,” she said, “but we’re definitely open to having conversations about doing it again.”