Women Could Be the Key to Boosting COVID-19 Vaccination Rates

Women make up the majority of Americans still undecided about the shot

NBCUniversal, Inc.

The spread of COVID-19 across the globe dominated 2020. Now in 2021, the focus is on ending the pandemic through vaccine distribution.

"Women are key because right now, they represent 65% of American adults who are still undecided on whether to get the COVID shot," said Ana Kreacic, partner with Oliver Wyman and chief operating officer of the Oliver Wyman Forum.

"And, in some ways, that's not really a surprise. Overall, when you look at the messaging, it's been pretty confusing. There's also a lack of gender specific information about the vaccine. We hear a lot from women around the misconceptions around the impact on fertility, the side effects of the vaccine, has there been sufficient testing? So, there have been stories from all over the United States where women are sharing their concerns."

An ongoing survey of almost 1,300 people a month by the international management consulting firm Oliver Wyman recently showed:

  • 11% of Americans are undecided about the vaccine.
  • Within that group, more than 60% are women.
  • Most of them make under $50,000.

Mobilizing this group to get onboard, Kreacic says, should focus on three key areas. Number one, better messaging and messages from the right source.

"People trust their health care professionals. So, we need the doctors. We need the nurses and other health care professionals to speak to women about vaccination especially given what we said about who they trust," she said.

She also suggests making the vaccine more acessible -- a point that may be surprising considering the widespread availability of the shot.

"We know some businesses are working with pharmacy chains to provide vaccines at the office. And, we know a number of the undecideds are more likely to get the vaccine if it's available at work or with their primary care doctor," Kreacic said.

Kreacic also believes the right incentives will appeal to women 45 to 54 who account for more than half of the undecided.

"And, these women just cannot take the time off. They need to make the money. They need to pay their bills. So, I think we can go further with incentives. We've done baseball tickets. We've done lotteries. And when you're talking about converting this group of undecided women, we know paid time off resonates. There might be other things such as that that will resonate more," Kreacic said.

Kreacic believes targeted messaging and benefits can convince more women to get the shot. And as the undecided change, it could influence others to follow.

"The added benefit is, since women typically make the health care decisions for the family, if you get mom vaccinated, you can boost vaccination rates for the whole family," she said.

Kreacic says the 11% undecided make up a large portion of the U.S. and doubling down on this group through targeted messaging and incentives could bring the progress health experts seek.

"There is a portion of the population that right now is just unwilling to get vaccinated. So, rather than focus on everybody, can we focus on those that are not vaccinated but are still willing? And can we focus on those that are undecided? Because I think the conversion rates there are going to give us the biggest yield," Kreacic said.

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