APR 25, 2022 1:00 PM PDT

Wearables Highlight Physiological Reactions to COVID-19 Vaccine

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

How people felt after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine has been the topic of significant debate for a while now. It was regularly reported that common side effects included some measure of fatigue, headaches, and injection site reactions. These side effects, generally, are the signs the vaccine is triggering the necessary immune response. 

A new study published in npj Digital Medicine shows how wearable devices (such as smart watches) can help effectively monitor and quantify physiological reactions triggered by an immune system response to the COVID-19 vaccine, reactions that might not otherwise be easily noticed.

Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute recorded information about sleep habits, heart rate, and other types of activity from 5,600 participants. The data was pulled from a larger digital health project, the Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment (DETECT). The goal of this study was to promote the sharing of how people responded to receiving a vaccine, including any symptoms or side effects they experienced. 

In the present study, the goal was to analyze the data collected in DETECT both before and after participants received the COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers were able to quantify key physiological changes using this method, particularly related to heart rate. Specifically, researchers noted the following trends:

  • Resting heart rates tended to increase the day after receiving a vaccine, returning to normal a few days after the first dose.
  • Previous infection with COVID-19 led to an even higher heart rate after vaccination compared to those who had not previously been infected. Researchers believe this may have been caused by a stronger immunological response.
  • Women had larger increases in heart rates compared to men.
  • Participants experienced an increase in sleep after the second dose, also likely due to an immunological response.

Researchers hope the data collected during this study could help in the future production of vaccines by helping make them even more safe and effective. Specifically, the study underscores the potential role that wearable technologies play in monitoring vaccine reactions.   

Sources: EurekaAlert!; npj Digital Medicine; Scripps

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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