Only 5.22%, that is 25,468, transgender persons have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in India, say activists amid rampant misinformation, digital divide and lack of documents. India, as per the 2011 census, has 4.87 lakh people belonging to the transgender community. The CoWIN portal showed that a total of 8,80,47,053 men and 7,67,64,479 women have been vaccinated, while just 25,468 people in the “order” category have been inoculated.
Pushpa Mai, a transgender activist, told PTI that a lot of community members approached her with queries related to vaccination. “They are misguided. They were told that taking vaccination will make their health worse. We have explained to them that getting vaccinated can protect them from this deadly disease and they should get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Activists believe misinformation, lack of digital knowledge and no government documents are the main reasons behind hesitancy of the community members in getting vaccinated. Shahana, 21, said she had many reservations about the vaccine earlier but the activists dispelled her fears. “My friends told me you will die, why do you want to risk your life but then I asked activists and they told me there is nothing like that and I should get vaccinated as they will give me protection.”
Chandni, 50, who earns her living by dancing at weddings and family functions, says she has been desperate to get vaccinated. But she does not have any government documents that are necessary for her to get vaccinated. “If I go anywhere to perform I am asked if me or my family members have any symptoms of if I have got vaccinated so it is necessary for me to get vaccinated to remain safe and also to earn my livelihood,” she said.
Samina, 44, who earns her livelihood by begging at traffic signals, said she does have an Aadhaar card but does not have a smartphone and is hesitant to go for walk-in vaccination fearing discrimination. “My friend went and she was driven away by the people queuing outside who told her she can’t get vaccinated with them. I want to go with an appointment so no one can say that but with no smartphone that is very difficult.”
Dr Vandana Prasad, a public health professional, told PTI that there are no contraindications that people who are HIV positive or have recently undergone surgery can’t get vaccinated. “There is some misinformation going around that you will die if you take the vaccines. There are some side effects of the vaccines, including death, but that is a very, very rare event as compared to deaths due to COVID-19. They can speak to their doctors but generally, if they are not severely immunocompromised, then they can get the vaccination,” she said.
The Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry has also urged the states to conduct awareness drives, especially to reach out to members of the transgender community in different vernaculars to ensure that they are informed and aware of the vaccination process. The ministry also requested states to organize separate mobile vaccination centres or booths for vaccination of transgender persons such as those taken up in the states of Haryana and Assam.