Women Are Missing from COVID-19 Research: Why This Matters

  • How many women are infected versus men?
  • Are men and women equally likely to get infected?
  • What is the fatality rate for each sex?
  • Are symptoms exactly alike for men and women?
  • Gupta cites Caroline Criado Perez from her award-winning book as saying, “Researchers have found sex differences in every tissue and organ system in the human body.” Gupta notes that consequently, women and men are likely to have fundamentally different reactions to the virus, vaccines, and treatments. In fact, research found that SARS, influenza, Ebola, and HIV all affect women and men differently.
  • Because of sex differences, correct dosages of vaccines and treatments are likely to be different.
  • Between 1997 and 2001, eight of the ten FDA-approved drugs withdrawn from the market “posed greater health risks for women than men,” including valvular heart disease and liver failure.
  • Sex-disaggregate data was collected during the H1N1 pandemic, which determined that pregnant women were at a higher risk. Consequently, they were the first to receive the vaccine.
  • Medical researchers in the United States are predominantly male and white.
  • The mindset that white women and people of color don’t need to be included in clinical trials is deeply ingrained. Including white women and people of color is perceived to be an added complication.
  • The data collection systems are not set up to collect the information, and no leadership is coming from the top of the government to do so. In fact, Gupta reports that the White House’s initial twelve-person Coronavirus Task Force was entirely male. Two women were finally added, Dr. Deborah Birx and Seema Verna, but they are outnumbered and not senior enough to push through systemic changes.

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Anne Litwin

Anne Litwin

Author of ‘New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together', OD Consultant, Keynote Speaker, and Workshop Trainer