February 8, 2021
To Whom It May Concern:
San Diego Pride is deeply concerned about the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines that is leaving our LGBTQ+ community members with disabilities behind, both in terms of prioritization and implementation. As an organization whose mission is to foster pride, equality, and respect for LGBTQ people locally, nationally, and globally, we are committed to advocating for equality for LGBTQ+ people with disabilities – a commitment that becomes all the more vital during a global pandemic. We join disability advocates from around the state in sharing our concern that the current vaccine distribution system leaves LGBTQ+ people with disabilities behind. Our concerns and demands echo those noted in the January 11, 2021 letter from disability advocates and providers on the California Community Vaccination Advisory Committee, which advocates for prioritized vaccination for lower-income persons with disabilities of all ages who receive home and community-based long-term services and supports, as well as those with disabilities who are at great risk of COVID-19 infection and severe illness or death.¹
LGBTQ+ people with disabilities must be prioritized in the vaccine rollout strategy utilized by the State of California and by San Diego County. LGBTQ+ people are particularly vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic², both in terms of increased risk of the disease and decreased access to healthcare and the vaccine³. Research shows that LGBTQ+ people are actually more likely than the rest of the population to have a disability⁴. In comparison to about 27% of the general population, 40% of transgender people within the United States report having a disability, and one in three lesbians and one in three bisexual women report having a disability. Systemic inequities in the healthcare system that affect LGBTQ+ people compound with systemic inequities in the healthcare system that affect people with disabilities — and these disparities in access to healthcare, economic security, and employment are only exacerbated by the current global health crisis. For LGBTQ+ people with disabilities that are also Black, Indigenous, or other People of Color (BIPOC), these disparities continue to stack up, creating higher and higher barriers to access.
In addition to the concerns about people with disabilities being pushed back in line behind healthy older adults, we echo and uplift the disability community’s concerns about the logistical distribution of the vaccine. While the current strategy includes vaccinations for people living in congregate settings such as long-term care facilities, people with disabilities that receive home and community-based services remain at a higher risk of exposure from their caregivers and service providers while being unable to access the vaccine through the current model. LGBTQ+ people with disabilities in our community have brought concerns with the current model to our attention: for example, lines at most vaccination sites are long, making it difficult for people with disabilities who may not be able to stand or wait in line for long periods of time. Additionally, we’re concerned about basic accessibility needs in our high-volume supersites and vaccination sites: e.g. access for Deaf people who need ASL interpretation, blind people who need assistance navigating the physical space, physical access for people using wheelchairs and mobility devices. With our staff and volunteers at these sites already stretched to their limits, San Diego Pride shares the concerns of many in the disability community that these needs may not be addressed. In addition, many LGBTQ+ people with disabilities may struggle to trust medical providers based on well-documented experiences of discrimination and dismissal. The implementation of vaccine distribution must also take the experiences and access needs of LGBTQ+ people with disabilities into account.
Thank you for considering the unique needs of LGBTQ+ people with disabilities in prioritization and implementation of the vaccine strategy as our County, State, and nation grapple with the best approach to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Fernando Z. López
San Diego Pride
¹ Members of California Community Advisory Vaccine Committee. Jan 11, 2021. Covid Phase 1B for People with Disabilities Letter. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZcRZzJOZY-hJVJpi8sesODpIu56C4XKN/view?usp=sharing
² LGBT Cancer Network and GLMA. March 11, 2020. Open Letter About Coronavirus And LGBTQ+ Communities,, https://cancer-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Press-Release-Open-Letter-LGBTQ-Covid19-17.pdf
³ LGBT Cancer Network and GLMA. December 18, 2020. LGBTQI Inclusion in COVID-19 Data Collection & Vaccination Planning. https://cancer-network.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/LGBTQI-Data-Vaccination-Letter-Final.pdf
⁴ Movement Advancement Project. July 2019. LGBT People With Disabilities. https://www.lgbtmap.org/lgbt-people-disabilities
Download the full letter here.