The gender gap: Why more doses of COVID-19 vaccine have gone to women in NC, across the US

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — During the four months of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, there’s been one constant: Every week, more women than men in North Carolina are getting their shots.

The gender gap in the state mirrors one taking place across the country: The Kaiser Health Network found women outpacing men in all 38 states that publicly post their vaccine distribution totals by gender.

Women make up more than 57 percent of the total number of people fully vaccinated, compared to just over 42 percent for men. Women account for 51 percent of the population while 49 percent are male.

Source: NCDHHS data dashboard

But there are some logical explanations for that discrepancy, said Dr. Bridget Kelly, a health communication research scientist at RTI International.

“I think that what you’re seeing so far has really just been a matter of opportunity,” Kelly said.

Kelly says women are more likely to make use of preventive care — flu shots and cancer screenings, for example. Because women on average have longer lifespans than men, their numbers were higher in the 65-and-older age group that was prioritized early in the vaccine process.

And women also tend to outnumber men in the health care and education workforces, two other occupational groups that were closer to the front of the state’s vaccine line.

“They may just be out ahead of it a little bit more than men are,” Kelly said.

Similar trends emerged in Iowa, where the vaccine breakdown between women and men was 62-38, and in Virginia, where 57 percent of those receiving at least one dose are women. Nearly 59 percent of those fully vaccinated in Maryland are women.

In many states — including North Carolina — those gaps appear to be closing.

Women outnumbered men in doses received each week so far during the vaccination process, with the split nearly 70-30 during the week of Jan. 17. But it has narrowed since mid-March, and of those who last week became fully vaccinated, 52 percent were women while 47 percent were men — much closer to the proportion of each gender in the population.

“We’re hopeful that in North Carolina and other states where we still see large gaps between women and men, we will begin to see that gap narrowing,” Kelly said.

Those numbers appear to run counter to a study published Tuesday by RTI International, which surveyed nearly 2,300 people last April and found men were actually more likely than women to say they would take the COVID-19 vaccine.

But the survey the study was based on was conducted a year ago.

“Maybe just that men perceived themselves as at higher risk at that time,” Kelly said. “I don’t think that if we were to do that survey again today that we would necessarily see the same difference between men and women and willingness to get the vaccine. So obviously, that’s a call for additional research. We do need to get out there and find out what are the predictors of vaccine hesitancy.”

CBS 17’s Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 figures since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to deliver a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation looks like now and what it could look like in the future.

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