It’s certainly a conundrum. The COVID-19 pandemic is causing us all stress, depression and anxiety. Many of us are not exercising. We’re eating and drinking too much and sleeping too little. These are among the many ways a pandemic disrupts our lives.
Unfortunately, these very problems also might conspire to reduce the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines we hope will end this coronavirus scourge.
Researchers at The Ohio State University reviewed 49 studies of the human immune response to other vaccines dating back 30 years. They found stress, depression and poor health behaviors can impair the immune response to just about any vaccine, potentially reducing their effectiveness.
Their work shows such damage can make it harder for the body to develop disease-killing antibodies, leads to a faster erosion of antibody protection and can result in more-severe vaccine side effects.
The good news, these scientists point out, is that we can take steps to improve our health. It might not be easy as the pandemic continues, but a focus on exercise can help improve mental and physical health. We can try harder to eat right, cut back on alcohol and toss those cigarettes in the trash. People who are feeling the onset of depression symptoms should take the steps to seek professional help.
The researchers suggest that massage and expressive writing can be effective in reducing stress, which has long been known to negatively impact health. Even 25 minutes of arm exercises before an injection might help us get the biggest bang out of a vaccine.
One pointer for the day before you are scheduled to get your vaccination: Get a good night’s sleep.