Flu Vaccines Are Less Effective in Men than in Women

February 18, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. vaccine /vækˈsin/ (n.) –  a substance that is introduced into the body to protect against a particular disease
Example:  The health department is administering free vaccines because of the sudden measles outbreak in the city.

2. vulnerable /ˈvʌlnərəbəl/ (adj.) – can easily get wounded or hurt
 Example: People with weak immune systems are more vulnerable to various diseases and infections.  

3. culprit /ˈkʌlprɪt/ (n.) – (figuratively) the cause of a crime, a problem, or a wrongdoing
Example: The researchers discovered that the cold weather was the culprit for the failing experiment.

4. hormone /ˈhɔrmoʊn/ (n.) – a substance produced by the body that affects the way the body develops
Example: The doctor prescribes a hormone called insulin to patients with diabetes.

5. catastrophic /ˌkætəˈstrɒfɪk/ (adj.) – disastrous or highly unfortunate
Example:  The experts discovered that the banned medicine causes catastrophic side effects in pregnant women.


Read the text below.
A new study has found that the flu vaccine is more effective for women than men.

Scientists have known for a long time that men are more vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections than women. They have also known that men do not respond as strongly to vaccines against yellow fever, hepatitis [hep-uh-TAHY-tis], and measles as compared with women, but experts have never been able to explain why.

A new research published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences might have found the culprit for this phenomenon: testosterone. Scientists from Stanford University and the French research organization INSERM used samples from 34 men and 53 women for this research.

Results determined that men with higher levels of a hormone called testosterone had a lower response to the flu vaccine. In addition, the scientists discovered that among men with lower levels of testosterone, the immune response was more or less the same as that of women.

The researchers speculate that this could be due to an evolutionary adaptation that developed many years ago. They believe that natural selection might have favored a male hormone responsible for strength, a taste for taking risks, and a weakened immune system in men.

In prehistoric times, being hunters exposed men to more wounds and infections, causing a very strong immune response. However, too much response could prove to be more catastrophic, as it can damage even the body’s healthy tissues. With such phenomenon, men with less aggressive immune systems tended to survive better.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you agree with the claim that women’s immune systems are better than men’s? Explain.
·         Do you think vaccines are effective in fighting diseases? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What other measures can one do to avoid getting diseases? Kindly discuss briefly.
·         Why do you think some people are susceptible to illnesses?


February 18, 2014