Patients seeing female doctors are more likely to receive flu shots

LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Apparently they’re more fond of vaccines on Venus than Mars. Researchers at UCLA find patients of female doctors are more likely to get a flu vaccine. This is true even if a male and female doctor work out of the same practice and remains consistent regardless of racial or ethnic considerations.

Study authors say their work may help sculpt future encouragement campaigns for various vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Study author Dr. Dan Ly says past reports have noted that female physicians tend to spend more time speaking with their patients as well.

“Now we’re trying to vaccinate against COVID-19, and we will soon get to a point where most adults who want a vaccine will get it,” the assistant professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine explains in a university release. “We’ll then need to reach those who need more convincing in order to be vaccinated, and my research suggests that perhaps this extra time spent may be helpful in getting these patients vaccinated.”

“In general, flu vaccines are 40% to 60% effective. But COVID-19 vaccines are more than 90% effective, and even more so against severe disease,” Ly adds. “This means that the time spent to convince a patient to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is time well spent, not to mention the societal benefits coming from it.”

Female influence is stronger across all races

Researchers examined Medicare claims data spanning 2006 to 2016 among male and female beneficiaries over 65 during this study. The team also split the information along four demographics: Hispanic, Asian, Black, and Caucasian. In total, that dataset encompassed a whopping 40 million patient visits to roughly 150,000 female and 300,000 male physicians.

Besides the main conclusion that female doctors vaccinate against the flu more, the study revealed some other interesting details. For white men specifically, 52.7 percent seeing a female doctor received a flu shot compared to 52 percent of those seeing male doctors. Stats were similar for Caucasian women; 54.6 percent (female physician) and 53.8 percent (male physician).

Across genders and demographics, the trend remained consistent. Rates among Black men were 39.8 percent with female doctors verses 38.1 percent with male physicians. Among Black women, 41.6 percent with a female doctor get a flu show in comparison to 40.3 percent seeing a male doctor.

For Asian men, a larger majority get a flu shot when seeing a female doctor (56.8%) compared to a male doctor (54.7%). The same held true for Asian women as well (56.4% vs. 55.7%). Finally, roughly half of Hispanic patients report getting their flu shots, with the trend towards female physicians staying strong (48.9% vs. 47.3% for Hispanic men and 50.6% vs. 49.1% among Hispanic women).

Additionally, study authors report female doctors are more likely to ensure patients suffering from chronic conditions and co-morbidities are vaccinated.

The study appears in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

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John Anderer

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