Why men and women react differently to COVID-19 and the vaccine

Study: Men more likely to have severe symptoms of COVID-19

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - COVID-19 researchers are noting differences between men and women’s responses to the coronavirus and its vaccine.

Women’s Sexual and Wellness Health Doctor Alyse Kelly-Jones with Novant Health explained some of the differences doctors have noticed within the last year of the pandemic. She says men may be more likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19 but women are more likely to experience long lasting effects from the virus.

For example, she says men are three times more likely to end up in the ICU from the virus. Women, she says, may still experience headaches, fatigue, or loss of taste/smell long after the virus has left their system.

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Dr. Kelly-Jones says researchers believe men and women may react differently to the virus because of the differences in our biological makeup.

“Women’s immune systems are different for a variety of reasons,” Dr. Kelly-Jones explained. “We think it boils down to two X chromosomes. The X chromosome has a lo tof immune responsive areas on it.” “Usually, when you have two Xes, some of those immune responses get inactivated, but in many women they don’t. So, their immune response is more robust compared to men’s immune response.”

Women’s hormones like progesterone and estrogen may also play a role in the immune response to COVID-19.

“Our immune ceels actually have little receptors or locks and keys where the progesterone or estrogen molecule can come activate,” Dr. Kelly-Jones said. “We don’t completely know why this is, but if all our immune cells have those actual activation spots on it, then it makes sense that our hormones are activating.”

Dr. Kelly-Jones says more research need to be done to answer questions left unanswered. For example, when a woman goes through menopause she will no longer have estrogen or progesterone hormones. So, does that mean a women who has gone through menopause is more susceptible to those severe symptoms of COVID-19?

“Theyre good research questions that somebody should take on,” Dr. Kelly-Jones said.

Dr. Kelly-Jones says men and women are reacting differently to the vaccine in some cases too. She says women are showing a more reactive genic response to the vaccine. Which means women may be more likely to experience soreness, headache, dizziness, or fatigue after receiving the vaccine.

But having that response is not a bad sign.

“That’s actually a good thing, because then. Our bodies are doing what they’re supposed to do when they’re exposed to a virus. They’re having this big response, which means when they get exposed to the virus, their body will know what to do,” Dr. Kelly-Jones said.

She says noting the differences between men and women is important, especially since drugs have not always been tested in women due to risks from pregnancy.

“They really weren’t studied in women until beginning in 1993, so that’s not long ago,” Dr. Kelly-Jones said. “Now that we are beyond that, we should not only be looking at how women react, but we should be separating the data. This is how men are reacting. This is how women are reacting. And, we don’t always do that in clinical trials.”

Dr. Kelly-Jones encourages women to speak to their doctors if they have any concerns about the vaccine. She says they are counseling women who are trying to conceive and who are pregnant about the vaccine and COVID.

“What it means to be vaccinated during pregnancy vs. what it means to have COVID during pregnancy,” Dr. Kelly-Jones explained. “So, it’s a risk benefit evaluation that ever patient has to go through. And probably vaccinating prior to pregnancy is a really good idea.”

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