The Center’s Health Services Co-Director: Here’s What the TGI ENBY+ Community Needs to Know about the COVID-19 Vaccines

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People should get a COVID-19 vaccine even if they are on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), according to Dr. Ward Carpenter, co-director of Health Services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

“We have no data whatsoever to suggest remotely that there is any interaction—none, zero,” he said this week during the Trans* Lounge Q&A Covid Vaccines and the TGI ENBY+ Community. “It’s also good news that there’s not any theoretical reason why there would be an interaction.”

Carpenter, who has worked in the field of transgender health since 2004 and personally cared for more than 1,000 transgender people, pointed out that, as of this week, there have been 17.5 million doses of vaccine administered in California and 565 million doses given worldwide.

“We know this vaccine now — that is a really big study,” he said. “But we do not have any specific or hard data on trans folks on HRT in these studies. They studied a lot of different demographics, that was not one of them.”

As of April 1, anyone over the age of 50 in California became eligible to receive one of the approved vaccines manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson. On April 15, anyone in the state ages 16 and older becomes eligible.

“To me, this vaccine is the only way back to the life that we know,” Carpenter said. “We need to get 70%-80% of the population vaccinated, at minimum, to really have a reduced transmission. Wearing masks and social distancing is important—but it is not going to end this pandemic. The only way back for us to a life we all remember, and want, is this vaccine.”

The Center began administering the Moderna vaccine to its frontline workers, including Health Services, Security, and Facilities staff who support the Center’s various health care sites, on December 29. Since then, the Center had been vaccinating clients over the age of 65 and, now, the minimum age limit has dropped to 50.

But the Center has only been receiving a limited supply of vaccines so Carpenter recommends clients to seek other options to receive it.

“This is the time to bet on multiple horses,” he said. “If you sign up with the Center, and you sign up with Dodgers Stadium, and you sign up with Walgreens, whichever one of those allows you to get the vaccine first, that’s the one you go for. Demand will outweigh supply for awhile but, with more than one million doses being given out each week in the state, there is good reason for optimism.”

Carpenter said that when it comes to side effects, people should hope for the best yet prepare for the worst which could include fatigue and aches for 24-48 hours after receiving the second shot of Moderna or Pfizer. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is administered in a single shot.

“Constantly remind yourself: this is the vaccine working as it is designed,” he advised. “This is not a bad thing—it is actually meant to happen. It’s charging up your immune system so that it can fight off this virus if you were to come across it.”

For people who are at high risk with cancer or severe immune suppression, Carpenter recommends the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines because of their higher full effectiveness rate.

“But, all of them are good,” he said of the three vaccines. “All of them are going to do the job, they’re going to keep you healthy, they’re going to keep you safe.”

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