COVID-19 Information: What LGBTQ+ People Need to Know

LGBTQ+ people are likely worried about the potential impact of COVID-19 on their health. People at particular risk should talk to their health providers about their options for protecting themselves from infection.

Updated September 22 , 2022

Is there a new COVID-19 Booster?

On Sept 2nd, the Department of Health announced that PA will start administering the updated COVID-19 Booster, targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron strains, which adds to the protection that the vaccine provides. These two omicron straints are highly contagious and have been contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in recent months. This updated booster was given emergency authorization by the FDA.  

Who is eligible:

  • Individuals who have completed the primary series of COVID-19 vaccines, regardless of whether or not that individual received any previous boosters 
  • Individuals who are ages 12+ for the Pfizer booster or 18+ for the Moderna booster. 
  • Individuals who received their last vaccine dose (booster or primary series) at least 2 months ago

To check to see your eligibility you can visit the CDC website here.

What are the updates with COVID-19?

Two sub variants of Omicron are currently being spread around to both those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Symptoms are similar to previous strains, except that people are less likely to lose their sense of smell and taste. People have been found to experience upper respiratory symptoms, muscle pains, headaches, sore throat, cough, fatigue.

Medical experts are urging people to continue to use face masks, social distance, and to stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, whether its with the initial 2 dose series or by getting their booster shots as vaccinations help prevent severe illness and hospitalizations from COVID-19.

Vaccinations prevent severe illness and hospitalizations from COVID-19. If you do not know if you are eligible for a booster check out the CDC's eligibility criteria here.

The CDC announced new guidelines for COVID-19 on August 11.

  • If you were exposed to COVID-19 are advised to wear a mask for 10 days after 5 days get tested for COVID-19. 
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, should isolate for 5 days at home and avoid others who live with you. Wear a well fitted mask if you have to be around people in public or at home.
  • After 5 days if you are fever free without the use of medication, and your symptoms are improving, you can end your isolation period. People who are immunocompromised, or are experiencing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, must be isolated for 10 days. 

To find out more you can visit CDC’s website here.

On July 7th, PA Department of Health announced that COVID-19 testing sites statewide will expand statewide and will offer 3 forms of free testing. You can find testing sites that are available and closer to you here.

If you are up to date on your COVID-19 Vaccines and want to know more about sexual health screenings click here to learn about our  Get Tested Tuesdays 

Who should get a booster vaccine and/or fourth dose, according to the CDC? 

  • Boosters are recommended for people who received the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna more than 5 months ago unless imunocompromised, then a booster is recommended after 3 months. If you received the Johnson & Johnson shot more than 2 months ago a booster is recommended.
  • The FDA and CDC recommend 2 boosters for people who are 50 year and older, 12 years and older with a weakened immune system, who received Johnson & Johnson single dose and 1st booster dose. The second booster dose should be 4 months after the 1st booster dose.
  • New research suggests that people who are 12-65 years of age who aren’t at high risk of contracting COVID-19 should wait 8 weeks between the first and second dose to increase protection.
  • Updates on new variants– omicron subvariant BA.2 variant spreads far more easily than previous variants before it. The best thing that public health officials strongly recommend is to get vaccinated from COVID-19 and also prevent the likelihood of new variants emerging. People who are more up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines are less likely to get COVID-19, in contrast to people who are unvaccinated.

Talk to your healthcare provider about whether getting a COVID-19 third and/or booster dose is appropriate for you.

 

Are there any side effects to getting the COVID-19 Vaccine or the Booster dose?

Yes. They can vary and usually are mild and may last for a day or two after receiving the shot. Side Effects will be different among age groups but common side effects are:

  • Pain from where you received the shot.
  • Muscle pains
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Fever 
  • Fatigue

Fortunately there are ways to relieve these side effects. After receiving the shot, it helps to move your arm. If you start to have a fever or experience pain, using over the counter pain/fever relievers will help. Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated. Rest if you are able to and refrain from taxing activities. 

Update of Guidelines for Getting First and Second Doses of Pfizer and Moderna Vaccines:

COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations for Children and Teens:

The CDC recommends children ages 6 months and up to receive the first and second doses of the COVID-19 Vaccine. Everyone ages 5 and up should also get a booster when they become eligible to do so. Getting your child vaccinated for COVID-19 is important because CDC studies have shown that children can get very sick from COVID-19 even if they do not have underlying health conditions. 

Children who are ages 6 months-5 years can receive either Pfizer (2 or 3-dose series) or Moderna (2-dose series). Children ages 6-17 are only authorized to receive the Pfizer 2-dose series at this time. To learn more about the recommendations for COVID-19 vaccinations for children and teens  you can visit the CDC website here.

At this time we will continue to be able to provide vaccines to children ages 3-17 as well as those 18+ during our clinics, but for now are our partner is unable to administer vaccines to children under the age of 3. 

If you are looking for a way to get your children who are  between the ages of 6 months- 3 year old vaccinated, please check out LVHN's website,here. You can also go to the Allentown Health Bureau that accepts walk-ins without appointment. 

Booster Shots are critical in providing protection against COVID-19 especially with new cases and variants on the rise.  FDA Studies have shown that with a booster shot, children ages 5-11 years old are more likely to not get severely sick, or hospitalized.

With the  recent omicron variant in the US,  more kids are becoming sick with COVID-19,some even hospitalized and  experiencing long term side effects even after recovery. Experts are strongly recommending parents to get their children the booster shot, which would strengthen their immunity, especially in the wake of the recent surge of COVID-19. For more information from the FDA about this recent authorization for the Pfizer booster click here.

COVID-19 Vaccines, Pregnancy and Menstrual Cycles 

I am pregnant, thinking about becoming pregnant, or chestfeeding, should I get vaccinated for COVID-19?

The short answer is yes. 

The CDC recommends that all pregnant individuals receive the COVID vaccine and stay up to date with their vaccination status, including boosters, because pregnant individuals are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, especially when they are unvaccinated. It is safe to get vaccinated at any stage before, during, and after pregnancy. 

If a pregnant person is vaccinated it not only provides protection for their own health, but also the health of the baby once it is born. Babies born to vaccinated individuals are at lower risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19 compared to those born to unvaccinated individuals. 

After birth, chestfeeding has also been proven to be beneficial to the health of the infant with antibodies being passed from the parent to the infant through the parent’s milk. 

Will getting the COVID-19 Vaccine affect my menstrual cycle?

The vaccine will temporarily change your cycle, however it varies per person. 

 There may be some heavier bleeding than usual during your period after getting the vaccine. Your cycle may be longer and there is   shorter time in between periods. Despite these changes, there is no evidence that getting the COVID-19 Vaccine affects fertility, and the effects on people’s menstrual cycles vary per person.  

If you have particular concerns about your health or the health of your child when it comes to vaccinations, speak to your physician or feel free to reach out to our Health Equity Programs Manager at [email protected]


Why are booster doses important?

Vaccines and boosters are significantly effective at preventing serious illness and death from all known variants of COVID-19. Boosters are especially critical in stopping the spread. People who have received a booster dose have a much lower risk of infection, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19, as compared to people who have only completed their primary series of vaccines.

  • With the booster dose, effectiveness against hospitalization with Omicron is 150% that of the effectiveness without a booster. This is evidence that booster vaccines are critical in preventing serious illness for all people aged 12+.
  • For people 50+, rates of hospitalization due to COVID-19 are roughly four (4) times lower among those who have received their booster dose, compared to those who have received only their primary series of vaccines (e.g., two (2) doses of an mRNA vaccine).

What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?

  • If you tested positive, regardless of vaccination status or presence of symptoms, stay at home and isolate yourself from others for a minimum of five (5) days.
  • If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, talk with your provider to see if you can end isolation after 5 days. If you need a referral to an LGBTQ-affirming provider, contact [email protected] or [email protected]
  • If you did not experience COVID-19 symptoms, you may end isolation 5 days after your positive result. For the first ten (10) days after a positive test, wear a mask around others and isolate if symptoms develop

FDA Recommends People to test Multiple times if you are using At Home COVID-19 Antigen Tests

  • The FDA has warned people that at home COVID-19 Antigen Tests have not been able to detect early signs of COVID-19. To read more about this click here.
  •  People should be taking the at home tests  over the course of several days(2-3) if they are feeling symptoms, regardless if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or not. If it comes back negative and the person is still feeling  symptoms, take a second at home test after 48 hours. If the second test is negative, call your healthcare provider, and schedule an PCR test. You will get the results back in a day whether you are positive or negative.  

What should I do if I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

  • If you were exposed to COVID-19 (i.e. in contact with someone who has COVID-19), the CDC’s recommended next steps differ based on your vaccination status.
  • For the first ten (10) days after exposure, everyone (regardless of vaccination status) should wear a mask around others, watch for COVID-19 symptoms, and isolate if symptoms develop.
  • If you are up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations (i.e. you have had all the vaccine and booster doses you are eligible for), you do not need to quarantine after an exposure. Five (5) or more days after exposure, get tested for COVID-19.
  • If you are not up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations, quarantine at home for at least 5 days after exposure and then get tested for COVID-19.

What does it mean to quarantine? To isolate?

Quarantine and isolation are different. Quarantine is meant to stop the potential spread in the instance of exposure. Isolation is intended for confirmed positive cases. The CDC outlines some steps for what to do for both quarantine and isolation here and updated guidelines from the CDC can be found here.

  • If you have come into contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19, Quarantine for at least 5 days, and get tested.
  • Wear a well fitting mask if you are around other people at home.
  • Isolation is for at least 5 days if you test positive, wear a mask at home if you live with other people.
  • Isolation ends when symptoms subside after 24 hours without use of medication.

Are there treatments available for COVID-19?

For people who have tested positive, there are different treatment plans that can be used to manage symptoms to prevent hospitalization. People who have mild/moderate symptoms there are antiviral medications or monoclonal antibody therapies available, but they require a prescription from a healthcare provider. 

COVID-19 treatments are prescription only, can only be prescribed by medical providers and be started 5-7 days after getting sick with COVID-19. To learn more about the different treatments for COVID-19 in and out of hospitals click here.

How can I check the COVID-19 cases in my county?

The CDC has an resource that is updated every Thursday per week with new information on counties across the country with what level they are at so community members can plan accordingly. You can find out what the specific COVID-19 Community Level for your specific county by clicking here. 

On July 7th, PA Department of Health announced that COVID-19 testing sites statewide will expand statewide and will offer 3 forms of free testing. You can find testing sites that are available and closer to you here.

 


What else is Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center doing?

Our organization prioritizes health promotion and health equity for the LGBT community, so we are taking COVID-19 seriously and are taking the following precautionary measures:

  • Visitors to Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center no longer need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. This decision is grounded in extensive research and guided by community feedback about the impact of the center’s vaccination requirement, which went into effect in February. The safety of visiting community members has always been a priority, which is why we will continue to require all visitors to wear masks. The pandemic may be subsiding, but the reality is that new variants raise enough concern to maintain this particular policy.

  • Unsure if you are eligible for a booster vaccine? Scroll up to the section "Who should get a booster vaccine and/or third dose, according to the CDC?".
  • All staff members have been fully vaccinated and boosted since the center reopened its doors to the community in September 2021.
  • Most programs are available through virtual formats.