After a rapid increase in the COVID-19 vaccination rate, things have started to slow down around April of this year. On Friday, June 18th, Reuters News announced that the US would not meet its goal of a 75% national vaccination rate by the 4th of July. In the broadcast, it was argued that people had less of an issue with fear associated with receiving the vaccine. Rather, the largest barrier was access to the vaccine in rural areas. However, on June 22nd, published an article citing an expansive list of conspiracy theories still circulating on social media and various online forums.

Some of the myths range from the belief that the COVID-19 vaccine makes you magnetic, to the vaccine actually contracting COVID-19 in recipients. While these myths verge on scientific impossibility, there are some grounds for suspicion on behalf of the general public.

In one of our previous blogs, COVID-19 and the Black Trans Word, we discussed the historic precedent of exploitation in the scientific sphere. It’s really no surprise that people - especially People of Color - cannot find trust in the medical system. We have found that Black communities and Trans communities have had issues with receiving healthcare resulting after contracting COVID-19 or a lack of vaccine access in marginalized neighborhoods.

It would stand to reason that if the government was working to cause harm to the Black Trans community, and the vaccine was created by those who seek to control the minds of the population, then they would make it more accessible to marginalized people. This is contrary to the truth of vaccine distribution. The population of people who have received the vaccine disproportionately represent privileged communities in the timeliness of access and quality of healthcare.

Our Black Trans staff was a part of the 1A, Tier 2 group receiving the vaccines in late February as approved by the CDC. They received their second dose within 21 days after receiving their first. Since then, GHC transitioned to a hybrid work environment that allows for staff to work remotely part time.

Cloud Johnson, Jasmine Bright, and Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku all reported back on their second vaccine dose side effects. While Ayotunde did not experience fevers or body aches, Cloud and Jasmine did experience these side effects. Jasmine reported experiencing a gout flare-up shortly after the 2nd dose. Cloud reported a slight increase in fever and body aches. All reported fatigue.

We asked our Black Trans staff if they would go through the vaccination process again in hindsight, and they unanimously responded yes. They prioritize protecting themselves. “I would absolutely recommend getting the vaccine. I feel like I have a shield to protect me against catching it again or if I was to catch it again I’d have a better chance of fighting it off,” Jasmine explained among reports of likely worse symptoms following catching COVID-19 a second or third time.

Some of the myths the staff heard regarding the vaccine was that it was untested, or that it was intentionally created to cause catatonia. Ayotunde recalls, “I wasn’t really nervous about the general fear mongering over the vaccine, but I was naturally hesitant due to [the] history of medical malpractice with the Black community.”

Staff agreed that they would take a booster shot if it was scientifically shown to provide the support needed to maintain immunity against COVID-19. Cloud emphasized, “I hadn't heard about a booster shot, but I would still be willing to get a booster shot. Anything to keep myself protected.”

No staff had heard of the upcoming research on an at-home pill COVID-19 treatment, but Ayo and Cloud responded enthusiastically. Cloud remarked, “I hadn't heard about COVID antiviral medication but it could definitely be beneficial to folks that are worried about being in contact with folks often or if [they’re] worried about getting the vaccination.” Ayotunde added, “I have not, but am optimistic that a potential resource for people like that may exist if done correctly.”

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Our Executive Director Ryan Kim Tiêu Cītlali, a Vietnamese, Generation 0 Transgender person stated the following regarding the violence perpetuated against their community. They turned 26, March 18th 2021.

What is the hardest part about being an Asian American for you today?

The hardest part about being an Asian American for me today is a collective fear for the physical safety of our people but also the emotional and mental safety of our people, which is something we know we don’t talk about enough.

How are the posts on social media regarding the brutality against the AAPI community affecting you?

It’s been traumatizing. It’s traumatizing to witness the harm that people are willing to inflict on my people. It is common knowledge white supremacy is dominating everything, and it’s validating to know my paranoia is real, but in a bad way.

It’s traumatizing to witness the harm that people are willing to inflict on my people.

What did you think about the commentary of the murderer in Atlanta?

I feel gaslit. I feel like everything is race based. We are never not raced. I can’t turn off the fact that I am Vietnamese in any space. Everything I do is Vietnamese, because I am. Everything that I say, and think all come from a Vietnamese perspective because I am. Saying that these murders are not race related is gaslighting. It’s gaslighting because white supremacy exists in every context. We do no favors to the conversation or our people when we deny ourselves of that reality.

Saying that these murders are not race related is gaslighting. It’s gaslighting because white supremacy exists in every context.

What would you like to say to your people right now?

I would say that we are collectively hurting right now, which means we need to generationally heal. Asian communities are in the national spotlight right now. Our voices, stories and trauma are being put on display- we need to build with the communities that have an intimate understanding of this kind of racism. They have been experiencing this kind of racism for so long that the media believes it is no longer newsworthy.

we need to build with the communities that have an intimate understanding of this kind of racism. They have been experiencing this kind of racism for so long that the media believes it is no longer newsworthy.

What do you mean by “communities that have an intimate understanding of this kind of racism”? Could you elaborate on that?

The tools of white supremacy that have been used to dehumanize Asian people, (racist caricatures, conflation with disease) are the same tools that have been used to dehumanize Black and Brown people, and Trans people, well before this conversation. We have an opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with Black Trans communities to carry our share of the burden of white supremacy, but also put the onus on white people to content with their own contributions, benefits and perpetuation of white supremacy.

We have an opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with Black Trans communities
Liberation for Black people, means liberation for all people.

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As of this morning, the COVID-19 death toll is approximately 500,000 people in the United States, according to The New York Times. With these staggering numbers, it is imperative that we all weigh the risks and rewards of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to the CDC, Black and Native American communities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19. When we combine this with the fact that Trump era federal legislation ruled that it was legal to discriminate against transgender people for ventilator use, COVID becomes even more lethal to Trans People of Color, and even more so, Black Trans People.

There have been several myths circulating the COVID-19 vaccine. A reason for this may be that it feels too good to be true - is the end to this pandemic truly coming? This end, while in sight, can also be quickly stolen from us if we don’t act with urgency in getting vaccinated .

It is important to recognize the obscene amount of violence that has been delivered to People of Color in the past through experimentation for immunization and other procedures in American history. That being said, however, these vaccines are no longer in the experimental trials, and it are highly effective.

The question we really need to be asking ourselves is, which is more dangerous? The vaccine or COVID-19? According to our Black Trans staff, the vaccine is much safer, and this is what our staff had to say:

pictured left to right: Jasmine Bright (She/Her/Hers), Director of Healthcare Services; Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku (They/Them/Theirs), Advocacy Program Co-director ; Cloud Johnson (They/Them/Theirs), Respite Data Assistant

Were you nervous about the COVID 19 vaccine?

Jasmine Bright (Jassie): “HELL YESS!!!! I wasn't going to get it at all.”

Cloud Johnson (Cloud): “I wasn’t particularly nervous about the vaccine, but more so anxious and excited.”

Ayotunde Khyree Ikuku (Ayo): “I wasn’t nervous but I was honoring a sense of caution and acceptance simultaneously which turned into relief.”

Why were you nervous about the COVID-19 vaccine?

Jassie: “Well it felt like a set up. It seemed rushed and felt like I could die from taking it or it was going to affect my body in a negative way.”

Cloud: “I was excited to get the vaccine because I was ready to be done with COVID-19, it was a thrill to know we’re nearing the end of the pandemic.”

Ayo: “Due to the consistent misinformation under the current administration and poor handling of the pandemic from day one.

As well as being fully aware of the historical malpractice involving black people as test subjects and “sub-human” and that part of that has been under the guise of preventative care in the past”

After getting the first vaccine, what were your side effects?

Jassie: “fatigue, chills, and body aches for like 3 days.”

Cloud: “After getting the vaccination I was very sore in the arm that I got the dose, had some fatigue, body aches and nausea, but that only lasted a couple days.”

Ayo: “I experienced no side effects, the only thing was a sore arm at the injection site for about 24 hrs but that’s also expected.

I am thankful I did not experience anything for my first dose but anticipate something for the second”

Has your fear of the vaccine changed? Why if yes?

Jassie: “Yes, I now feel semi protected.”

Cloud: “After getting vaccinated I don’t really have any fears or concerns about the vaccination. It just reminded me of getting a flu shot or a tetanus shot”

Ayo: “I just feel more protected and prepared to stay educated around the science of the situation and check in with others who also have been vaccinated to share notes over time”

If you could have gotten the vaccine sooner, would you?

Jassie: “NO, The only reason I got it was because my Mom had just gotten hers and I didn't want her to go through that alone.”

Cloud: “I absolutely would have!! Building up immunities to viruses and preventative care is cool.”

Ayo: “Assuming more at risk folks wouldn’t have been forgotten and actually prioritized properly in this scenario, yes!

The earlier any of us can get vaccinated is more protection for ourselves, our families, and overall society”

What does the vaccine mean for Black people and Black trans people?

Cloud: “The vaccine will be a great way to help prevent more life loss in the Black and Trans community and give people the opportunity to live their best lives again without fear of COVID-19”

Jassie: “It is creating access. Which we all know is what the Black community needs.”

Ayo: “Knowing that we already have potentially fatal interactions with any institution, especially in a medical setting, it’s important that we do what we can to protect ourselves proactively so we don’t have to be in the position of severity where we are under doctors who do not value our lives enough to do everything to save us when things don’t look the best

Being vaccinated and protected would minimize the frequency we would need to take that risk, while also protecting of the more imminent fatal risk of catching Covid”

What would you like to say to your community regarding the vaccine?

Cloud: “I understand that there are a lot of fears and skepticism around the vaccine but there's a lot of information available to support why it's beneficial to get yourself vaccinated. I would personally much rather get vaccinated and take preventative care from COVID-19 than catch it.”

Jassie: “If and when the opportunity comes around take advantage of it. It's not as scary as it seems. Protect yourself!!!”

Ayo: “Stay educated, pay attention to who doesn’t want our people to be protected and how that would benefit them, and do what you can until you feel able to trust that this vaccine outweighed the risk of Covid & long-term damage to your organs even if you catch it and survive.

With all the love, when you can get vaccinated, please do

We must live on.”

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