COVID-19 doesn’t strike the sexes equally. Globally, for every 10 COVID-19 intensive care unit admissions among women, there are 18 for men; for every 10 women who die of COVID-19, 15 men die. In the United States, a gender gap is emerging in vaccination rates, with women ahead of men by 6 percentage points, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And rare adverse effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine appear to strike women more frequently, whereas those from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines more often affect young men.
It is astounding this isn’t already happening. Research institutions and publishers should play their part with policies that demand clinical trials collect and report data on gender differences. The current situation is unacceptable. This isn’t just a COVID issue. We have included links to two related items.
Senior author Sabine Oertelt-Prigione, a gender and health researcher at Radboud University Medical Center, was disheartened by her group’s findings. “I would have assumed that [sex] would be picked up in the trials, simply because it’s such an evident piece of the puzzle,” she says. Skipping that step is potentially dangerous in trials of drugs that may affect men and women differently, given their physiological differences, Oertelt-Prigione says. And it misses an opportunity to learn about the workings of the disease, adds Susan Phillips, an epidemiologist at Queen’s University who was not involved in the study.