Holly Elgison and Len Schillaci are a mixed vaxxed couple, and they are far from alone.
“I was always going to get the vaccine, 100 percent,” said Ms. Elgison, a medical claims auditor in Valrico, Fla.
Her husband, a disaster insurance adjuster, said he will pass. “To be honest with you, I think that the worst of Covid is behind us,” Mr. Schillaci said. “I’m good.”
As the Biden administration seeks to get 80 percent of adult Americans immunized by summer, the continuing reluctance of men to get a shot could impede that goal.
Women are getting vaccinated at a far higher rate — about 10 percentage points — than men, even though the male-female divide is roughly even in the nation’s overall population. The trend is worrisome to many, especially as vaccination rates have dipped a bit recently.
higher for men than among women. And the division elucidates the reality of women’s disproportionate role in caring for others in American society.
“It could matter to localized herd immunity,” said Alison Buttenheim, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania and expert on vaccine hesitancy. “While most experts are fretting about larger gaps by race, political party, religion and occupational group,” she said, many of which overlap with the gender disparities, “I haven’t heard of any specific initiatives to target men.”
In Los Angeles County, where 44 percent of women over 16 have gotten their first shot — compared with 30 percent of men — officials are scrambling to figure out how to do just that.
“We are very concerned about it and are planning to embark on some targeted outreach among men,” said Dr. Paul Simon, the chief science officer at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, who said that the disparities are of particular concern for Black and Latino men. Only 19 percent of Black males in Los Angeles County and 17 percent of Latino males have received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with 35 percent of Asian men and 32 percent of white men, according to the most recent data available from early this month.
larger proportion of that age group. In many states, health care workers and schoolteachers were also given vaccine priority: Women account for three-quarters of full-time health care workers and over 75 percent of public schoolteachers in the United States are female.
The disparities show both where women do the paid and unpaid labor of life. For instance, women lost the majority of the earliest jobs in food services, retail businesses, health care and government jobs. The mothers among them have done most of the work in the shift to remote schooling and caring for parents and sick relatives.
The combination may have increased their vaccine motivation in two ways: They are seeking to protect the rest of their family and they are desperate to get back in the work force. Indeed, just as women drove the job losses last year, they are leading the economic recovery now; roughly half a million women joined the labor force in March, in part because in-person schooling has resumed across much of the country.
“In addition to women being disproportionately represented in several essential jobs,” said Pilar Gonalons-Pons, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in gender issues, “they are also disproportionately represented as unpaid caregivers for older adults in their families and communities, and this can also be an additional motivation for getting the vaccine.”
In many ways, the pattern with vaccines reflects longstanding gender differences when it comes to preventive health care. Women are on average more likely to get annual physicals than men, even when adjusted for pre-existing health conditions and other factors, and are more likely than men to get preventive care.