Creating Safe and Affirming Spaces for Vaccine Distribution

Partnership Efforts to Reach Transgender, Gender Nonconforming, and Gender Nonbinary Community Members in Orange County

*The Alliance thanks the Orange County Health Care Agency for all photos and b-roll content used in the making of this video

New research from the Williams Institute shows that people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ), especially people of color, are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and more likely to have underlying conditions that could make them severely ill. Many LGBTQ people, particularly transgender, gender nonconforming (GNC), and gender nonbinary (GNB) people of color, may have access barriers or trust barriers when it comes to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. This is often due to a history of discrimination within the medical system and a lack of safe, affirming spaces for transgender, GNC and GNB people to receive medical services.

The Orange County Health Care Agency (OCHCA) has focused their mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinic efforts on communities most disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. In response to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on transgender, GNC and GNB residents, specifically residents of color, OCHCA co-led a mobile vaccination clinic event with their community partner, Alianza Translatinx. The event was designed to foster an inclusive space, free of discrimination or judgement to ensure transgender, GNC and GNB residents felt safe and comfortable receiving the vaccine. From registration, to vaccination, to observation, the partners took intentional steps to create an affirming and welcoming space. Thanks to in-person and online outreach efforts from partners like Alianza Translatinx, they were able to administer over 250 vaccines to community residents, the majority of whom were members of the Orange County transgender, GNC, and GNB community. OCHCA and their partners plan to build on the success of this event in order to reach more disproportionately impacted transgender residents throughout Orange County.

Key Partners

  • Hieu Nguyen – Director of Population Health & Equity, Orange County Health Care Agency
  • Khloe Rios Wyatt – President and CEO, Alianza Translatinx

Key Funding Mechanisms


  • The collaborative was co-led by the staff and health leaders within OCHCA and transgender leaders within Alianza Translatinx, with support from other transgender, GNC and GNB serving organizations in the County.
  • Alianza Translatinx conducted outreach at night in order to outreach to harder to reach members of their community (e.g. sex workers) and provided education on the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Alianza Translatinx staff also used a combination of social media and in-person outreach, specifically targeting websites that many of their members already used, and word of mouth as trusted means to spread the word about vaccinations.
  • Partnering with organizations led by and for transgender, GNC and GNB community members, facilitated a trust among the broader transgender, GNC, and GNB community.
  • The OCHCA implemented several changes and recommendations elevated by their partners to create a trans affirming and safe space for this effort, including: asking for chosen/preferred name and pronouns at registration and on site, providing sensitivity and awareness training for staff, providing nametags for staff, volunteers and all vaccine recipients with preferred names and pronouns, and displaying visual indicators of inclusivity (e.g. pride flags, rainbow band aids, etc.).
  • Alianza Translatinx staff provided day-of, on-site reminders and a mini-training for site staff and volunteers.
  • The vaccination event was held at a clinic that many LGBTQ people are aware of in the community, and provided an opportunity to educate others on safe spaces where transgender, GNC, and GNB individuals can receive care

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure that efforts are co-led with people and organizations that represent the communities that are being served.
  • Tailor outreach and communications to reach communities online and in person, which may require after hours coordination.
  • Conduct an audit of the vaccine registration and clinic process from start to finish to implement changes that will ensure a safe and welcoming space for transgender, GNC and GNB individuals (as well as other LGBTQ individuals of color).
  • Provide awareness and sensitivity training for all staff and volunteers beforehand and offer mini training refreshers the day of the event.
  • Exercise patience, transparency, and humility during the process of co-leading with community partners in order to ensure long-lasting and trusting partnerships with disproportionately impacted communities.
  • Recognize the knowledge and expertise that is necessary to engage effectively and collaboratively with community and community-based organizations (CBOs).
  • Local health departments should remain humble and lean in to discomfort when working in true collaboration and co-leading efforts with community – be able to recognize shortcomings and keep open and transparent dialogue with community co-leaders.