Vaccination Gender Gap?
July 5, 2021
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by Arabella Seebaluck

There has been a lot said about people who will and those who won’t get vaccinated over recent months. In the U.S., where most of the opposing voices have been heard, there has been a lot of effort to get people onboard with vaccination. Messaging was primarily directed at ‘specific demographic groups’ according to Angelica Puzio, freelance gender reporter and doctoral candidate at the Department of Applied Psychology at New York University.

She writes:

“Experts worried about low turnout among women, who reported significantly more vaccination hesitancy than men prior to the vaccine rollout. And public health officials warned that non-Hispanic Black Americans would be more hesitant than other racial groups because of the historical abuses and exclusion they’ve experienced at the hands of medical professionals and researchers.”

The writer notes however that there is a gender gap that has been missed by research. If CDC figures on the matter are not alarming, but varies greatly depending on the region where the data is collected.

Source: Center for Disease Control (United States)

Although these figures are specific to the U.S., they perhaps reflect trends that may also be observed in other parts of the world. Although few other countries have published their data on vaccination, the U.S. may be a benchmark on assessing and redressing inoculation drives around the world, should the same behaviour be noticed.

A few ideas are being put forward by the NYU researcher on the reasons behind the trends.

Age groups

It’s possible, according to the linked article, that women are just ahead of the game. In terms of demographics too, since it seems that in the U.S., there are 55% women in the 65+ age group. This explains a bit of the tendency for the women – in what has been seen in the more vulnerable age bracket to the Coronavirus – to get ahead in vaccination drives.

Typical male behaviour

The study also points out how men just generally will not undertake routine or other medical check-ups as promptly as women. This therefore accounts for the health issues they may not encounter being detected less early or even not at all. Another reason ventured by the research is that they tend to use more ‘harmful substances’, including alcohol and tobacco. Their diet too would offer less natural defense elements, such as vitamins and fibre.

“According to Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society at Vanderbilt University, men’s shorter lifespans are the result of the cumulative effects of poor health decisions, not physiology.”

Prevention is better than cure

The study says that women are naturally more inclined to take better preventive care of themselves, including fitting the right elements into their diet, looking after themselves physically by undertaking exercise or other healthy habits and also more regular health checks. It goes with the fact that

“Women’s greater responsibility for maintaining not just their own health but the health of others makes Reich suspect that women are more likely to be in contact with health services and seek out health-related information. Social expectations that women care for others and vigilantly monitor their reproductive health demand it of them.”

Politics and conspiracies

The anti-vaxxers have been very vocal in north America. The article notes that these tend to be men who identify with conservative views, while women appear more liberal. The account notes statements made by several men who associated themselves with the Republican party in the U.S.:

“According to national polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29 percent of Republicans reported that they would “definitely not” get the vaccine compared with just 5 percent of Democrats. This divergence could partially explain the vaccine gender gap when we consider gender differences in political leaning.

[…]

I spoke with six other men around the country who identified as conservatives […] All of them worried about the role of the vaccine in facilitating the rise of socialism, and two of them falsely believed that COVID-19 vaccines contain government-controlled tracking devices. José Rodríguez, a community-outreach worker who partners with hospitals and churches to run vaccine clinics in western Virginia, said that misinformation was a major barrier in persuading men to get vaccinated. His concerns fall in line with research on gender differences in susceptibility to COVID-19 misinformation: Early in the pandemic, men — particularly those who identified as conservatives — were more likely than women to subscribe to COVID-19 conspiracy theories. The researchers have yet to collect data for 2021, so we don’t know whether this is still the case.”

Closing the gap

As incentives for men to get vaccination, some states in the U.S. are resorting to traditional ‘masculine’ offers to make the inoculation somewhat more appealing. Fishing or other sporting licenses, beer and other lures have been laid out to try and get more men to get their Covid jabs.

But is this enough?

“…one of the best ways to increase inoculation rates among those who are hesitant could be making vaccine information readily available in the places where trust already exists, such as churches or barber shops.”

These methods could, indeed, prove more successful if the issue to begin with, in the first place, is trust.

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