CAMH recently held a successful specialty COVID-19 vaccine clinic dedicated to 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, administering three times the number of vaccinations than during a typical weekday at our clinic.
This specialty clinic addressed the recommendations made in a CAMH-led study by Dr. Alex Abramovich, Independent Scientist with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH, about how to address vaccine hesitancy among 2SLGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness.
“There is an ethical responsibility to prioritize vaccinations for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals who face many compounding layers of discrimination and who are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. This study makes several key recommendations for service providers, including engaging peer ambassadors to distribute vaccine-related information to youth, ensuring frontline workers understand how to discuss vaccine hesitancy with youth and making sure that youth have accessible options to get vaccinated,” said Amanda Moss, Research Analyst with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH.
Mistrust in the healthcare system, previous traumatic experiences engaging with healthcare providers, barriers accessing the vaccine, and ongoing mental health issues were among the reasons cited by study participants for not getting vaccinated.
“By creating safe, inclusive and affirming spaces like at the CAMH Vaccine Clinic, we addressed many of the concerns brought forward by research participants. Staffing these clinics with 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive and trauma-informed workers is a significant step towards building trust with this population,” added Nelson Pang, Research Coordinator with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at CAMH.
Working with peer ambassadors and external organizations, like The 519, this specialty clinic provided a space for youth to ask questions, feel supported and receive their vaccine.
“2SLGTBQ+ individuals deserve to see themselves reflected in the health care spaces and programs they access. The CAMH vaccine clinic set an example of what that looks like by not requiring individuals to present government identification which, for some, does not align with their identity, and prominently displaying posters that reiterate that the clinic is a 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive space,” said Dr. Alex Abramovich. “It’s important to build partnerships with 2SLGBTQ+ organizations, and that’s what CAMH did through engaging with community organizations who provided the clinic with Peer Ambassadors to disseminate information and answer questions.”
While offering specialty vaccine clinics for those who identify as 2SLGBTQ+ is a step in the right direction, there is much more work to be done to build more inclusive health care spaces of all kinds—at CAMH and across the health care system.
“Building more inclusive health care spaces for queer and trans folks involves delivering health care with the understanding that people identify in a variety of different ways. As a starting point, this means not pathologizing patients based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” added Dr. Abramovich. “Gender affirming care improves wellbeing and mental health outcomes. Unfortunately, this continues to be a missing piece in the healthcare system for many trans and non-binary people.”
While there is much more that still needs to be done, CAMH is committed to continuing to work with community members and organizations to provide safe, inclusive and gender-affirming health care to 2SLGBTQ+ people.