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Who is getting COVID-19 vaccinations?

Daily Press file photo Delta County residents receive COVID-19 vaccinations during a clinic at Bay College earler this month

ESCANABA — Vaccines arming residents against the virus responsible for COVID-19 continue to be distributed across the Upper Peninsula, but even with rules in place about who qualifies for vaccination, there are major differences in the demographics of who is actually getting the shots.

Currently, the vaccine can be administered to people in Michigan who are healthcare workers, those who work or live in long-term care facilities, anyone age 65 or older, or who work as frontline first responders, school or childcare staff, or as staff in a correctional facility.

Despite explicit goals to have zero disparity in vaccination rates across racial and ethnic groups or by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s social vulnerability index — a classification system that ranks communities based on socioeconomic status, household composition and disability, minority status and ability to speak English, housing type, and access to transportation — there are noticeable trends in who is receiving the vaccine.

Across Region 8, the region that encompasses the entire Upper Peninsula, the majority of vaccines have been administered to people over the age of 65. As of Monday, the most recent information available, 43.1% of all Yoopers age 75 or older have been given the first shot to be vaccinated against the virus, with 20.5% of people in that age range receiving the second dose that is necessary to make the vaccine effective. The numbers for Yoopers age 65 to 74 are similar, with 43.4% having received a first dose and 21.8% having a second dose.

In both cases, women were more likely than men to be vaccinated — a trend across all age ranges both in the Upper Peninsula and across the state as a whole. For those age 75 and up, 45.1% of women and 40.7% of men have received at least a first dose. Among those age 65 to 74, the numbers are 45.7% for women and 41.2% for men.

Looking at individuals younger than age 65, who must qualify to get the vaccine based on the type of work they do, the disparity between men and women getting the vaccine increases dramatically. The largest gap is among individuals in their 20s, where women were 2.6 times more likely to be vaccinated than their male counterparts, despite only 6 percent of this age range being vaccinated across the peninsula. Yooper women in their 30s were 2.2 times more likely to be vaccinated than their male peers, women in their 40s were almost twice as likely to be vaccinated than men in their 40s, and women between the ages of 50 and 64 were 1.76 times more likely than men in the same age range.

The difference is likely tied to the types of jobs being prioritized by the state.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 87.4% of registered nurses nationwide are women, with nurse practitioners (88%), licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses (90%), and nursing assistants (89%) also being female-dominated professions. In fact, a staggering 74.4% of all Americans working as healthcare practitioners or in technical occupations related to healthcare are women.

Childcare and teaching positions are also heavily female-dominated professions, with 94.8% of childcare workers and 79.65% of pre-K through high school teachers, including special education teachers, being women.

Of course, not all of the prioritized groups are female-dominated. Men are more likely to be police officers (82.9%), correctional officers and jailers (68.3%), emergency medical technicians (66.3%), and other categories of first-responders. However, these jobs simply are a smaller part of the nation’s work force, with 3,256,000 nurses employed in America compared to 758,000 police officers in 2020.

While the differences between men and women under the age of 65, who are more likely to be part of the workforce than those of retirement age and can only use their occupation to qualify, there are likely multiple reasons why the discrepancy exists among older Yoopers. It is possible that pushes to draw nurses out of retirement have led to slightly more women over the age of 65 becoming vaccinated so they can go to work vaccinating others. It is also possible that cultural, religious or political beliefs could be skewing vaccination rates as people make personal choices to vaccinate or not vaccinate.

Regardless of the reasoning, it is likely that vaccination rates for both men and women will change soon. According to the state, the employment categories qualifying for vaccination are scheduled to expand to include frontline essential workers in food processing and agricultural industries starting March 1.

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