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January 26, 2021

Impact of COVID-19 Vaccination on WHOOP Data

We explore the science behind vaccinations and share some of the data we've seen from WHOOP members after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

By Emily Capodilupo

Within only four weeks of the FDA giving emergency use authorization for the first COVID-19 vaccinations, more than 20 million Americans have already been vaccinated against the deadly disease. Many WHOOP members have reached out to us about their vaccine experiences and asked us to share data on what it does to their bodies. Below we’ll review some of the science behind vaccines and discuss data from WHOOP members following COVID-19 vaccinations.

 

How Vaccines Work

The general idea behind a vaccine is to expose your body to something that looks like a harmful pathogen (disease causing organism) but is actually harmless. These harmless look-alikes are sometimes the pathogen itself in a dead or weakened form that makes it easier for our bodies to eliminate, or they can be a protein or carbohydrate taken from the pathogen.

Regardless of the vaccine type, the goal is to give your immune system a practice round–it easily defeats the look-alike, but from that exposure develops antibodies that work on the disease-causing pathogen. If we are later exposed to a pathogen that we’ve been immunized against, our immune system is able to quickly recognize it as something it has seen before and can mount a successful response before the disease takes hold. That is what allows us to be exposed without getting sick.

 

Can Vaccines Make You Sick?

This is a common myth, you can’t actually get sick from vaccines. While you might get mild symptoms of being sick, those are actually symptoms of immune system activation and mean that the vaccine is working. When our immune system is activated, symptoms like fatigue, chills, headaches and mild fevers may happen, but they typically subside in a day or two.

The CDC is a great resource to learn more about vaccines against COVID-19 and other diseases.

 

What We’ve Seen in WHOOP Member Data Post Vaccination

WHOOP members who’ve been vaccinated have the opportunity to report the event in our Journal feature. We took a look at the first 1,200 members who reported receiving the first shot of the vaccine and what it did to their data:

  • Most WHOOP members actually showed no signs of decreased recovery following COVID-19 vaccination
  • 21.6% of members showed significantly elevated resting heart rates (defined here as at least 10% above their 14-day baseline)
  • 28.9% of members showed significantly depressed heart rate variability (defined here as at least 20% below their 14-day baseline)

To help give context to this data, following vaccination 23.8% of WHOOP members had a red recovery (less than or equal to 33%), which is nearly double the typical number of red recoveries we see in a random sampling (12-13%).

However, unlike what we saw in WHOOP members who came down with COVID-19, these declines were very short lived and the distribution of resting heart rate, HRV and recovery among those vaccinated was not statistically significantly different from random member data samples by the second day after vaccination.

 

Planning for Your Vaccine

CDC guidelines strongly recommend that everyone get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to them. Because some WHOOP members who have been vaccinated have experienced temporary declines in recovery, you can take advantage of this knowledge and plan lower-strain days after getting vaccinated (as your body may not be in a position to take on a lot of load).

You may also better prepare for your vaccine by getting extra sleep the night before. Research by Dr. Aric Prather out of USCF showed that if people are sleep deprived when they receive a vaccine they may be less likely to develop protective antibodies. Therefore, we suggest members meet their sleep need with the Sleep Coach set to “Peak” to maximize the effectiveness of their vaccine.

 

The data shared here is only from the first 1,200 WHOOP members to report a vaccine, so there is still a lot to learn. You can contribute to our understanding of the physiological response to the COVID-19 vaccine by letting us know through the Journal when you get vaccinated.

The products and services of WHOOP are not medical devices, are not intended to diagnose COVID-19, the flu or any other disease, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content available through the products and services of WHOOP is for general informational purposes only.

 

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Emily Capodilupo

Before joining WHOOP in 2013 as the first full-time employee and first scientist, Emily studied Neurobiology at Harvard University and studied circadian biology in the Analytical and Modeling Unit of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard's Brigham and Women's hospital. As a runner and acrobat, Emily knows first hand the importance of sleep and recovery for peak performance. At WHOOP, she blends this personal experience with the sleep and analytics knowledge developed at Harvard to empower athletes to make intelligent, data-driven decisions.

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