TAMPA, Fla. - With Florida's age of eligibility lowered to 16 this week, people have been flocking to COVID-19 vaccination sites. More than six million people have gotten at least one shot in Florida.
It seems there's a large gap between two key groups: men and women. State data shows women are vaccinating far faster than men. Experts say there are several possible reasons why.
A total of 3.6 million Florida women have gotten at least one COVID-19 shot. Rhonesia Dennard is one of them.
"Fully vaccinated and excited, feel great," said Dennard.
Tara Legree is also on that list.
"Everything is great," she said. "Very little side effects."
Meanwhile, men in Florida account for 2.7 million of the state's total, nearly a million behind the women. It's the same trend nationwide according to the CDC with 57% of women to 43% of men.
"I'm not surprised at all because we're the smarter ones," laughed Legree.
All joking aside, what's behind the numbers? Dr. Kartik Cherabuddi, a professor with the University of Florida Division of Infection Diseases & Global Medicine, gave several options.
"I think there's a bit of this and a bit of that," offered Cherabuddi.
It could be anything from political affiliation, to risk perception, to messaging.
"Earlier on, the messaging was all about, in some ways, keeping your loved one safe, and in many families, women play the primary caregiver role," explained Cherabuddi. "Whether for children, whether for the elderly, that's one of the reasons I think more women have taken the vaccine early on is to keep their own family safe."
Cherabuddi said easy access to shots during business hours may have limited participation with men outnumbering women in the workforce.
"We're getting better. I think that one might catch up," Cherabuddi said.
Shaming rather than nudging men to get shots can be a deterrent. "Having a conversation will play better than trying to shame people into it or telling them it's their duty to take it and so on," Cherabuddi said.
Women also tend to outlive men by six to eight years, according to the World Health Organization. With Florida's focus, from the start, to vaccinate seniors, it would be no surprise to see senior women pushing ahead.
"Seniors are much less likely to be hospitalized for COVID than they were six months ago," Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday, "so, our efforts have worked."
State data analyzed by FOX 13 shows new COVID-19 cases among seniors dropped 71% since February 1. In all age groups, deaths and hospitalizations are drastically down too.
"I got the vaccine, Moderna," said Steve Kelmar. "I've had it for about a month now. I feel kind of liberated."
"Men should go do it," he added. "It just makes so much sense."
Doctors hope dwindling numbers are a "shot in the arm" for anyone still holding out.
"A conversation with their own physician or their own pharmacist, and be able to get the vaccine in their doctor's offices or in their own pharmacy, I think that will be the last step that will really help," Cherabuddi said.