A new civic-run covid-19 vaccination centre for transgenders and those from the LGBTQIA+ community has opened up in Vikhroli, Mumbai. This comes in the wake of similar centres and drives for the queer community in Kochi, Delhi, Kolkata, and more. The idea is to make vaccination an inclusive and accessible experience. In an interview with PTI, a Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation official mentioned that within the first few hours of the centre’s opening, around 100 members of the queer community received their vaccines doses.
The centre will continue to be operational for the next months, with jabs being given to those even without identity cards. The BMC has requested self-help groups and non-government organisations to motivate the members of the community to come forward and receive the doses.
There has been growing demand to address the disproportionate health and economic impact, particularly on transgenders. “The pandemic has particularly hit them hard with more than half of the population resorting to regular, daily wage jobs. Structural inequalities and discrimination have caused the transgender population to fall behind in vaccination rates relative to others,” wrote Sanskruti Yagnik recently in Down to Earth. The law student at the University of Mumbai further talked about the need for the governments— state or central—to arrange for safe spaces for the community in the form of transgender-specific vaccination centres.
A similar move has been undertaken by the government of Assam, who has been working with associations to roll out vaccination programmes for the community. In June, the North West Delhi district administration set up a four-day camp in Sultanpuri for transgenders, while also sensitising the team members in a one-day orientation session.
Some of these steps are being taken by not-for-profit organisations as well. For instance, recently in Kolkata, the ‘Together We Can Foundation’ organised a vaccination drive to address the concerns of the transgender community, who felt they would be mocked and ridiculed if they went to a designated centre.
According to Dr Aqsa Sheikh, the nodal officer for Covid Vaccination Centre, Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, there have been many apprehensions regarding vaccination within the transgender community. In an August-interview with the Hindustan Times, Dr Sheikh stated that the community worried about the vaccine’s side effects because a lot of trans individuals are on hormones or undergoing treatment for HIV or gender affirmation surgeries. There needs to be an FAQ section or a document from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to address these queries.
“The government should reconsider the use of an application (CoWIN, Arogya Setu) and instead, implement alternative registration markers to allow for mass-registration. The central and state government should take the help of grassroot-level outreach, news channels, local newspapers, posters and loud speakers for better accessibility and registration,” wrote Yagnik.