Want to get your COVID-19 vaccine at CVS? You can’t get one without telling the company if you’re transgender.
The online form that CVS requires you to fill out to get a vaccine includes the question “What is your gender assigned at birth?” The choices are male or female. Click one or you can’t continue with the application.
The three vaccines available at CVS are approved for people 16 and older. The same vaccine at the same dosage is given to everyone, no matter your weight, age or gender.
So why ask the “gender assigned at birth” question? CVS claims it’s because “Patient birth sex is an important piece of biologic information that we use to make sure you get the care that is best for you.” Call customer service to ask about the question, and they’ll pull up that quote and repeat it to you verbatim — multiple times if you don’t let them off the phone.
But go into a CVS store and talk to a pharmacist (pharmacists are the ones administering vaccine shots there), and they’ll tell you they don’t see any of the patient information. They only know that you have an appointment based on your name.
So how are they making sure you get the best care if gender assigned at birth is in any way relevant?
After 15 minutes going back and forth with a customer service agent on the phone, asking what care I would get after receiving a vaccine that would be different if my sex assigned at birth didn’t match my gender identity, she could give no answer.
Dr. Gary Sinclair at Prism Health North Texas said it actually may make a difference, and it’s something that’s currently being studied. But it is related to chromosomes — not hormones,
According to the British medical journal The Lancet, “Global data indicate higher COVID-19 case fatality rates among men than women,” although that’s not true in every country. The mortality rate in India is higher among women.
And according to the American Journal of Physiology, “Biological sex is increasingly recognized as a critical determinant of health and disease, particularly relevant to the topical COVID-19 pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.”
So treatment for someone with COVID-19 may eventually differ based on chromosomes, but there isn’t any different treatment offered now.
And CVS is simply administering the vaccine. By their own admission, they are not doing anything any different for men or women, cis or trans people. Store personnel don’t see the information, according to a pharmacist at a CVS store on Maple Avenue, so they can’t use this “important piece of biologic information,” even if a person has a reaction before leaving the store — not that there’s a different way to treat a cis or trans woman, for example.
After receiving the vaccine and leaving the store, someone who has an extremely bad reaction or is among the few who contracts COVID-19 would go to their doctor or a hospital emergency room, not to back CVS.
A trans person who has a doctor would go to that doctor. Their doctor would know they were trans. If treatments that are chromosome-specific develop, the doctor would treat the trans person appropriately, and it would have nothing to do with where you got the vaccine.
The only effect asking that question is having is discouraging trans people — and cisgender people offended by or who feel funny answering the question — from signing up to get their vaccine at CVS. And someone who isn’t aware of LGBTQ issues might not even understand what the question means.
— David Taffet