A small but significant portion of couples contain one partner who is vaccinated against COVID-19 and another partner who is not, a Washington State University survey has found. Reasons for not getting the shot also differed depending on which partner in the couple was reporting it, particularly when it came to religious reasons.

Karen Schmaling.

Partners have been shown to have a lot of influence on each other’s health behaviors, said Karen Schmaling, the WSU psychologist who conducted the first known scientific study to look into this issue, detailing the results in the journal Vaccine.

“Vaccines clearly decrease the likelihood of infection and severity of illness, so discordant couples could be a real focus of identification and intervention efforts,” said Schmaling. “The numbers might be small in this study, but in terms of public health—if this translates to about 16% of the U.S. population, that’s a huge number.”

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