How to get the most from your COVID vaccine

We have no control over the effects this vaccine will have against the current strain, the UK strain or the South African strain of the virus. However, there are proven ways to make sure your immune response to this vaccine is as effective as possible. This is based on many years of research from other vaccine programs:

In particular:

• Get more than 6 hours of sleep

– Good quality sleep, ideally >7 hours for the few days before the vaccine and for the next 2 weeks after the vaccine. This improves the immune response of the body. The reason maybe because slow-wave sleep helps create the ideal chemical and hormonal environment. Slow-wave sleep helps the immune system produce the memory of it’s encounter with the vaccine. This boosts the immune response.

• Keep up your regular exercise

– Exercise is directly involved in your body’s ability to form a response to a vaccine. Exercise triggers a short term increase in signaling proteins (cytokines), which interact with the immune system. More specifically, weight and resistance training causes micro-tears in muscle. This activates the immune system in its anticipation of the these micro-tears. Thus, allowing more vaccine into the muscle (Your body’s response to stop this from happening).

• Reducing stress

– Although this is hard to always do, but minimising your stress levels for the 2 weeks after the vaccine improves your immune response. This is because stress increases your fight-or-flight chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals have an immune suppressant effect. One important way to improve this is to keep social. Catch-up with friends, even if it’s via Zoom or phone call. This is a big part of reducing the feelings of loneliness and managing anxiety, to reduce your release of cortisol.

• Minimise alcohol consumption

– Alcohol is also known to reduce the effectiveness of your immune response to a vaccine. A minimum amount of alcohol is okay (up to 2 standard drinks a day). However, binge drinking has a definite dampening effect on the immune response and will effect the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Thomson, H (2021) How to give your vaccine a boost. New Scientist, 13th February 2021, No. 3321. P8-11


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