Millions more women than men have been vaccinated. FiveThirtyEight dives into the data to explain the reasons for the disparity.
The simplest explanation for the vaccine gender gap is that women got a head start. Among older Americans, who had early access to the vaccine, women outnumber men: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that women make up about 55 percent of all adults age 65 and over. And in specific occupational groups with early access in most states, women also outnumber men — among child-care workers and health-care practitioners, for example, women constitute about 95 percent and 74 percent, respectively.
COVID-19 isn’t the only health matter that men are less likely to be proactive about. Compared with women, they tend to see a doctor less often and use harmful substances like alcohol and illicit drugs more often; men also tend to eat less fiber and fruit, and they are even less likely to use sunscreen when compared to women. 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. “There’s no real biological reason that men die earlier,” said Metzl. “The things that make you a successful, cool, tough man in America are also inversely related to health and longevity.”
My conversation with Mahalik led me to ask other scholars about potential differences in how men and women evaluate medical evidence. Jennifer Reich, a sociologist at the University of Colorado Denver who has studied vaccination behavior for more than a decade, told me that women were more used to making decisions about their own health and the health of their families than men were. “Women are accustomed to seeking out health care in the form of reproductive health from a young age on a biannual or annual basis, so much so that women are more primed to be thinking about preventing illness in a way that men tend not to participate in until they’re about 50,” she said.