April 2, 2021 - Podcast

Episode 111—Childhood vaccines, and sex after the pandemic

As American adults become vaccinated, scientists are turning toward vaccines for children. But preliminary findings from an Indiana University study have found more than a quarter of all U.S. parents say they do not intend to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. Additionally, roughly a quarter of all U.S. parents oppose efforts to require COVID-19 vaccines in schools. Jessica Calarco, a leader of the study and professor of sociology at IU, says women tend to serve as family health managers, making them generally more likely than men to follow expert medical recommendations for avoiding health risks. However, with the onslaught of misinformation around COVID-19, the pressure women face to control risks may be leading them to disproportionately oppose some new efforts to promote public health, Calarco says. The study looked at a nationally representative survey of 1,946 U.S. parents and in-depth interviews from Calarco’s Pandemic Parenting Study that included a politically, socio-economically and racially diverse group of 64 mothers. The researchers looked at parents’ views on COVID-19 vaccinations for children and potential school-required immunizations against COVID-19. They found that more than one-third of all mothers said they do not plan to vaccinate their children. That number was higher for white mothers and mothers who identify as Republican or Republican-leaning. Additionally, a third of all moms oppose school-required vaccinations. Calarco said these findings have serious implications for the success of curbing the virus, including school-based public health initiatives, especially given the role that mothers, and especially white mothers, play in influencing school policy. Calarco says one way we can help turn the pandemic around is by changing the current culture that pressures and blames mothers to a culture that includes community care. Treating children’s health and wellbeing as a collective responsibility—not an individual one—is what vaccines are all about.

In other news, the pandemic has led to many changes in our lives, some of which will become permanent, including in people’s sex lives. Recent research by IU’s Kinsey Institute, done in partnership with Esquire and Cosmopolitan, surveyed 2,000 people around the country about the future of sex. The research found that regardless if people are single or coupled, they are seeking better and bolder sex. In terms of casual hookups, researchers found that we may be nearing the death of one-night stands. Of those surveyed, 42 percent of respondents say they are more likely to ask potential partners about their physical health before consenting to sex. The pandemic might also have brought out a need for commitment. Researchers found 52 percent of singles say a committed relationship is what they want next and 68 percent of respondents say they’re less likely to cheat. Additionally, half of people who experienced the pandemic as part of a couple say their relationship quality is better now. In terms of sex, the researchers say the pandemic made already committed people acutely aware of what it takes to keep things interesting. In fact, 19 percent of the respondents said they are more inclined to pursue an open relationship in the future and 46 percent say they’re engaging in more sexual experimentation. In the end, researchers say post-pandemic sex will be about embracing more, doing it better and trading up from the idea that “getting some” is getting it all.