Women are the Secret to Boosting Vaccination Rates

It’s time to get women off the sidelines so the United States can meet its goal of getting at least one dose of vaccine to 70% of adults.

This article was originally published in the Dallas Morning News on July 4, 2021.

Women have received more shots than men. They also account for 65% of American adults still undecided about whether to get the coronavirus vaccine.

It’s time to help get these women off the sidelines so the country can meet its goal of getting at least one dose of vaccine to 70% of adults, something President Joe Biden had hoped to do by July 4, and is necessary to reach herd immunity.

Roughly 47% of all eligible Texans have received at least one inoculation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 60% of those 18 and older. About 40% are fully vaccinated compared to over 50% in New York, California and Pennsylvania.

Oliver Wyman’s ongoing survey of almost 1,300 people a month showed that the U.S. made progress. The portion of Americans who are “neutral” and lack information about getting the vaccine has shrunk in the last six months to 11% from 21% in December. But the number of women in this group remains stubbornly high.

We need to mobilize this largely suburban group to get onboard. And we can, with better messaging, easier access, and yes — a few incentives.

Double down on messaging to women

Many of the undecideds want more facts, which isn’t surprising considering how confusing and contradictory the messaging has been since the start of the pandemic. The good news is people trust health care professionals. More than 60% of those we surveyed get their advice about the coronavirus vaccine from health care professionals.

Providers and insurance companies historically have reminded women to get checkups, vaccinations and screenings. It’s time for doctors and nurses to speak to women about the vaccination. An added benefit — getting Mom vaccinated also could boost rates for the entire family because she typically makes their health care decisions.

Make the vaccine more accessible

While millions of people were willing to wait in long lines to get the shots, many women can’t afford to miss work to get the vaccination or stay home if they feel sick after receiving the shot. More than half, 55%, of the still undecided women we surveyed earn less than $50,000 annually. Forgoing a work shift could mean reduced pay.

Employers can make a big difference here. A growing number of companies now provide time off and financial bonuses for those who get inoculated. More should, especially because workers trust their employers more than the federal government.

Another option: Some businesses also are working with pharmacy chains to provide the vaccines at the office, a critical step as 20% of Americans not yet ready said they would be more likely to get their vaccine if it is available at work, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

Incentives work

It’s important to create incentives that appeal to women 45 to 64, who accounted for more than half of the still undecided women. As U.S. vaccination rates have slowed and the Delta variant spreads, the number of incentives to get inoculated against COVID-19 has grown.

While intrinsic motivations such as caring for fellow citizens and the community are better in the long run, the incentive strategy may work. A recent survey by the UCLA COVID-19 Health and Politics Project found that a third of unvaccinated people said they would be more likely to get a shot if offered a cash payment. States and businesses now offer everything from college scholarships and $1 million lotteries to doughnuts and Super Bowl tickets. Let’s offer even more types of incentives to bring more women into the fold.

Help women become change agents

It’s been a very tough 16 months. More than 600,000 Americans died from the coronavirus. Millions lost jobs. The female representation in the U.S. labor force hit a 33-year low. And two-thirds of the people who identify themselves as “unwilling” to be vaccinated are female, our survey shows.

But targeted messaging and benefits can convince many of those women who still identify themselves as “unwilling” to not just get vaccinated, but possibly even become key change agents. We have vaccines that are effective. Now, women should lead the way to finishing the effort to get Americans vaccinated and give us another reason to celebrate this summer.