By Sydney Bauer
ATLANTA, April 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A U.S. pharmacy chain has changed its online registration forms for COVID-19 vaccinations after transgender people complained about being asked to declare their birth sex, highlighting a heated nationwide debate about trans rights.
CVS Health Corp, which has administered millions of vaccines in the United States, said it was scrapping a “sex assigned at birth” question and would only ask people to state their gender following feedback from the LGBT+ community.
The company’s decision comes amid a U.S. culture war over trans rights as advocates and conservatives battle over access to medical treatment for minors and inclusion in schools’ sports for trans girls.
A CVS spokesman said the new form includes a note explaining that demographic information – including gender – is required by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. public health body, as part of the vaccine registration process.
“We are committed to providing equal access to vaccines. An individual’s sex, gender, race or ethnicity are in no way limiting factors in scheduling a vaccine appointment,” the spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.
CVS, which has nearly 10,000 pharmacy stores, is one of various retail pharmacy chains to participate in the U.S. vaccination drive, and said on April 1 it had administered 10 million vaccine doses.
The CDC said gathering demographic information was vital to understanding COVID-19’s impact on different groups.
“We use demographic information to understand whether some people are being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, which is crucial information for new diseases,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
“We have not received reports of concerns about the way this info is being collected by providers.”
The CDC website has a section about recording data from the LGBT+ community, where it suggests that healthcare facilities ask for a patient’s gender identity before asking for the sex “originally listed on your birth certificate.”
“Asking two questions offers a clearer, more clinically relevant representation of transgender patients,” it says.
But some trans people rejected the requirement to declare their birth sex as part of vaccine registration, saying it forced them to “out” themselves and could potentially put them at risk of discrimination or abuse.
“There was an entry on the form that asked me to out myself and expose myself,” said Amanda Mitchell, a trans woman who registered for a vaccine in Washington state.
Mitchell said she put “male” on the online form, which was not issued by CVS, though she feared she could receive harassment when getting the jab as a result.
The United States has administered more than 187 million coronavirus vaccine doses, according to the latest CDC data, and President Joe Biden has pledged 200 million by the end of his first 100 days in office. (Reporting by Sydney Bauer; Editing by Helen Popper, Rachel Savage and Hugo Grenhalgh. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)