Endurance training confers a number of benefits, such as a stronger immune response, that could potentially decrease the severity of COVID-19. Sometime in 2021, probably in the second or third quarter, a COVID-19 vaccine should be available. A logical question for serious endurance athletes is whether they should take the vaccine. Will their training be negatively impacted? How will their body respond?
A recently published study looked at the impact and timing of vaccination on athletes. Investigators were particularly interested in immune response and side effects. The study vaccine was the influenza vaccine because most medical experts expect the response to a COVID-19 vaccine to be similar. The study involved 45 male and female athletes who trained five or more times per week. Subjects were vaccinated with influenza vaccine either 2 hours or 24 hours after their training session. Researchers measured blood antibody levels 1 and 26 weeks after vaccinations. Antibody responses peaked in both groups one week after administration and, most importantly, there was no differences between the groups who were vaccinated immediately after exercise or one day later.
The investigators concluded that vaccination of athletes was effective and safe and that timing a vaccination after a hard training session did not impact response. Side effects observed were relatively mild and there was no difference in the side effects regardless of whether the group was vaccinated immediately after their training session or one day later. Although women were part of the study protocol not enough women were included to determine if there were any gender differences in vaccination response.
Recent polls have suggested a large number of Americans will not take the vaccine when it is available. I would strongly recommend that everyone be vaccinated. The long-term effect of COVID-19 on respiratory parameters and exercise performance are far more costly to endurance athletes than the potential of mild side effects.