Ground Report | New Delhi: Dr. Aqsa Shaikh Speaking exclusively to Groundreport.in
“Being a transgender person myself, it is a privilege to be running a COVID vaccination centre. Transgenders are highly discriminated in our society”, said Dr Aqsa Shaikh a nodal officer at the HIMSR–Hamdard Institute of Medical Sciences and Research– vaccination centre, New Delhi. This is a bitter-sweet moment for her as she added, “it feels sad that I’m the only transgender person in a population of 1.3 billion to head a COVID vaccination centre”.
According to the CoWin database, only 5% of all transgender people have received a single dose of the COVID vaccine. This percentage is concerning. While speaking to Ground Report Dr. Aqsa Shaikh pointed out few possible reasons for the reluctance of the transgender community to get vaccinated.
Firstly, lack of awareness about the disease, and vaccination. She said, “one of the reasons is that we haven’t been able to communicate the risk of COVID-19 and the effectiveness of these vaccines against this threat”. Dr. Aqsa further added, “many transgender people are on hormone replacement therapy. They are afraid that the therapy might interact with the vaccine and cause clotting.”
Secondly, she said, “…the historical discrimination of transgender people whenever they have tried to access any healthcare institution. They have been discriminated against by some health workers as well as people accessing healthcare services. They fear the same discrimination will propel if they go for vaccination ”.
Thirdly, and most importantly, Dr. Asqa talks about identification proof sometimes turns out to be the biggest hurdle. She said, “for vaccination identification documents like Aadhar card, Pan card or driving license is mandatory. Many transgender people do not have these documents with the name they want.” If not that then the class status of the community, as most transgender people aren’t from affluent backgrounds. “a lot of them are under the age of 18-44 years and do not have many free vaccination centers available to them. Most of them can’t afford the paid vaccine as it costs around ₹2000”.
Dr. Aqsa Shaikh is currently an associate professor of Community Medicine at Delhi’s Hamdard Institute of Medical Science and Research (HIMSR). Here she also serves as the nodal officer of the HIMSR vaccination center. Beyond this, she is a founder of an NGO–Human Solidarity Foundation– which supported the vulnerable communities during this pandemic.
Dr. Shaikh always felt different about her round, and existence. The acceptance of her own identity took time. At the age of 20, she embraced her truth and transitioned to be a woman. She acknowledges her time as a man to be ‘punishment’. Society is harsh towards change, and a change like which Dr. Shaikh went through is frown upon. As a part of the transgender community, she wants to use the vaccination drive as an opportunity to raise her voice against the discrimination which transgender people face. And, make the vaccination drive inclusive.