Why are young men not getting vaccinated? Gender gap emerges in Covid vaccine take up across UK

With the lifting of restrictions fast approaching, the latest data shows a stark gap between young men and women coming forward for their coronavirus jabs

Men are falling behind on their jabs - but one expert things indifference rather than true vaccine hesitancy could be to blame.
Men are falling behind on their jabs - but one expert things indifference rather than true vaccine hesitancy could be to blame.

Young men are significantly less likely to have had their first Covid vaccine dose compared to young women, new data analysis by NationalWorld shows.

The findings fly in the face of Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey data, which shows young men have reported more positive attitudes towards the vaccine than their female counterparts.

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Analysis of the latest data from England, Scotland and Wales by NationalWorld found a gender gap has emerged

The gap is most stark in England, but is present in every nation. Data on age and gender was not available for Northern Ireland.

England

NHS England’s figures show 1.4 million men aged 18 to 24 had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine as of 11 July – 57% of the population, according to mid-2019 population estimates from the ONS.

For women of the same age, 1.5 million had received one dose – 65.8% of the population, giving a gap of 8.8 percentage points. That has narrowed slightly from the previous week when it stood at 9.7 percentage points.

Among those aged 25 to 29, the gap was 7.3 percentage points – 63.1% of men vaccinated compared to 70.4% of women.

Among 30 to 34 year olds, 74.1% of men were vaccinated compared to 79.4% of women, a gap of 5.3 points.

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The gap closes or reverses among older age groups where takeup is high, or close to or at 100% among 55s and overs.

The discrepancy is widest in London, where for 18 to 24 year olds it stands at 10.9 points. It is narrowest in the East of England, but is still at 7.3 points there.

Scotland

The latest vaccine data for Scotland covers until 14 July.

It shows 64.4% of men aged 18 to 29 have been jabbed, compared to 70.1% of women, a gap of 5.7 percentage points.

The gap is just 1.6 percentage points for those aged 30 to 39, with 79.4% of men and 81% of women vaccinated.

Wales

The last data with a gender and age group breakdown covers up to 6 June. A spokesperson for Public Health Wales said new data is due soon.

There the gender gap was widest among people aged 40 to 49 at 8.3 percentage points, with 77.9% of men jabbed compared to 86.2% of women.

Among those aged 18 to 29, 58% of men and 63.5% of women had had one jab, a gap of 5.5 points.

And among those aged 30 to 39 it was seven points – 67.3% of men jabbed versus 74.3% of women.

Why are men falling behind?

The ONS runs a monthly survey on sentiment towards the Covid vaccines, asking people if they have been or plan to be vaccinated and, if not, the reasons why.

The latest report, which covers the period between 26 May and 20 June, showed no gap between men and women on vaccine sentiment, with only 4% of each showing hesitancy.

Among the 16 to 29 year age group, men were actually more positive with 8% showing hesitancy compared to 11% of women.

So why is this not borne out by real-world vaccine data?

‘Indifference’

There is no easy answer, says Professor Martin Michaelis of the University of Kent.

“I doubt that anyone can really answer these questions with certainty,” Professor Michaelis said.

“I think we may be seeing an overlap of different aspects here.

“People who do not have anything against the vaccine may still not get vaccinated just because it is low on their priority list and additional hassle to organise and attend a vaccination appointment.

“Hence, if someone does not get vaccinated, it may sometimes be a sign of indifference rather than a deliberate decision indicating actual vaccine hesitancy.

“In this context males are known to be on average less mindful about their health than females. It would make sense to see higher vaccination rates among females than among males.”

A spokesperson for the ONS also stressed that their survey can only capture what people say they might do, in regard to those who say they will get vaccinated – but that their actual behaviour could differ.

Professor Michaelis said using pop-up vaccination centres at popular locations could combat the indifference among men.

Pop-ups at sports stadiums

A spokesperson for NHS England said it had been using pop-ups at a variety of settings including sports stadiums such as Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, St Helens’ Rugby Ground and Edgbaston Cricket Ground, “to make the vaccine as convenient as possible to get”.

“We have seen great uptake among men and women in all age groups and have been tackling hesitancy using a number of methods,” they added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said its “phenomenal vaccination programme” had seen one of the highest vaccine uptake rates in the world.

They said: “We are continuing to do everything we can to boost uptake in younger people and urge all those who have yet to book their appointment to do so as quickly as possible to help protect themselves and their loved ones.”

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