Researchers at Iowa State University found 90 minutes of mild- to moderate-intensity exercise directly after a flu or COVID-19 vaccine may provide an extra immune boost.
In the newly published study, participants who cycled on a stationary bike or took a brisk walk for an hour-and-a-half after getting a jab produced more antibodies in the following four weeks compared to participants who sat or continued with their daily routine post-immunization. The researchers found similar results when they ran an experiment with mice and treadmills.
Antibodies are essentially the body’s “search and destroy” line of defense against viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites. Vaccines help the immune system learn how to identify something foreign and respond by bolstering the body’s defenses, including an increase in antibodies.
“Our preliminary results are the first to demonstrate a specific amount of time can enhance the body’s antibody response to the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine and two vaccines for influenza,” said Kinesiology Professor Marian Kohut, lead author of the paper published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
If you have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease, you already know about the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. But did you know that coming down with the flu can substantially increase the risk of a serious or even fatal cardiac event? Or that getting the influenza vaccine can substantially reduce that risk, even if you do wind up contracting the seasonal virus?
Probably not, if annual influenza vaccination rates are any indication, especially if you’re under the age of 65. According to a Houston Methodist review published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, Americans with heart disease continue to have low vaccination rates every year despite higher rates of death and complications from influenza.
The flu vaccination rate for American adults who are less than 65 years of age and have heart disease is less than 50%, compared to 80% in older adults with heart disease.
“It seems that younger Americans with high-risk conditions have not gotten the same memo that their older counterparts have received about the importance of getting the influenza vaccine,” says Dr. Priyanka Bhugra, internal medicine specialist at Houston Methodist and lead author of the JAHA article. “That’s dangerous, considering people with heart conditions are particularly vulnerable to influenza-related heart complications, whether they’ve reached retirement age or not.”
It’s well-known that the flu can lead to significant respiratory symptoms such as pneumonia, bronchitis and bacterial infection of the lungs. The virus’ effects on the heart have historically been harder to parse out, in part because many patients already have a known predisposition to cardiac events and in part because the cardiac event often occurs weeks after the onset of the flu.
Every year the flu threatens the health of millions of people. Experts continue to recommend annual flu vaccination as the best line of defense, but despite these recommendations, flu vaccination rates haven’t broken 50% in more than a decade. New research in the INFORMS journal Management Science seeks to overcome this. The study finds that performance feedback at healthcare clinics can significantly increase vaccination rates. This has important public policy implications. Citing other research, the authors highlight that even just a 1% increase in U.S. adult flu vaccination rates could translate to some $400 million in societal benefits.
The study, “Focusing Provider Attention: An Empirical Examination of Incentives and Feedback in Flu Vaccinations,” was conducted by Bradley Staats and Robert Niewoehner III, both of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in partnership with VaxCare, a technology company that partners with clinics to coordinate vaccination logistics. The study looked at 145 clinics in nine different states and tested whether financial incentives or performance feedback might improve vaccination rates.
“We find clinics that got performance rankings grew their flu vaccinations more than all other clinics. Specifically, our experiment led to a 12% increase in flu shots for these clinics,” said Staats, a professor of operations and Sarah Graham Kenan Scholar, faculty director of the Center for the Business of Health and associate dean of MBA programs in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill. “We also find that the clinics who received rankings don’t want to come in last – that is, they do whatever they can to avoid the bottom rankings. Because of this, in trying move up, the clinics near last-place end up outperforming their corresponding control clinics by 23 percentage points – a significant margin!”
This research stands to have a very large impact. If even just a portion of the increased vaccination rates go to at-risk groups, this could avert serious health consequences.
“Even further – if most of an increase in flu shots went to seniors, the CDC estimates that this could prevent thousands of hospitalizations,” said Niewoehner, a doctoral candidate in the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Our study shows that behavioral interventions like our experiment can improve performance outcomes, even when targeting seemingly immutable trends, like flu vaccination rates. Going forward, we believe our findings hold great promise for improving public health and company operations in general.”
I would like to add a personal note here. Long before the pandemic raised the prospect of defensive vaccinations, I found that ‘flu shots’ was a hot button topic. I get a flu shot every year and I recommend that to everyone I can. In addition, I have an annual post “It’s time to get that flu shot.” Initially, I was amazed at the vitriolic responses from readers. After all, I was just passing along my doctor’s recommendation. So, vaccinations are a very sensitive subject in our culture. For the record, I get a flu shot every year, and I got the Pfizer-Biontec shots back in February and March of this year.
Vaccine negativity and reluctance didn’t just emerge during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a recent study published in the Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal, authors from Loyola University Maryland and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explored the appearance of negative dominance – a concept in which negative messages outweigh positive, solution-oriented messages in audiences’ perceptions – in the context of COVID-19 vaccine-related information and activity online.
Prior research has looked at media coverage to identify vaccine concerns among the public and its impact on vaccine-related beliefs and behaviors, the spread of misinformation and fake news on the Internet, and the role of social media in aiding vaccine hesitancy, among others. Surprisingly, however, research to date has yet to explicitly explore negative dominance of vaccine-related information online using more recently developed tools for analyzing big data.
I got jabbed yesterday. I joined the fastest growing club in the country Wednesday. I got my COVID-19 shot. As regular readers know, I turned 81 last month, so I am eligible. For the record, I was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine which has been granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Illinois Department of Health reports that so far some 1,000,000 people have received the first shot.
The hospital lies around a mile and a quarter from my apartment, so I walked it. Like much of the country, my home town of Chicago is under siege from Old Man Winter. The temp was barely into double digits on the Fahrenheit scale for my walk. Sadly, I have still not mastered wearing a mask with my glasses on and not getting them fogged up. By the time I got to the hospital, I carried my glasses in my hand and I was walking in a semi fog.
Northwestern Memorial Hospital is a huge complex of buildings and by the time I had navigated my way to the ‘correct’ section, I had added at least a quarter mile to my frigid hike.
On the positive side, the hospital was fully up for the occasion. I followed a string of other seniors up two flights. There were volunteers about every 20 feet or so to point us to exactly where we needed to be.
We arrived at a room about the size of a basketball court with dozens of tables placed about 10 feet apart with a health care worker seated at each one.
Over the course of about 10 minutes, my guy gave me the usual questions about any symptoms, etc., then proceeded to read through the various considerations with getting an Emergency Authorized vaccine.
As I had experienced severe side effects from my second shingles shot several months ago, I asked him if he had any stories to share with me about this shot. He said that he had experienced some soreness at the site and fatigue from his first shot and a little fever after the second one, but nothing dramatic.
I agreed that I was aware of the risks and was willing to get my shot. It was over in a second and maybe even quicker than my flu shot back in October.
Afterwards, I was directed to an area one floor down where I and everyone else who had a shot in the last quarter hour would ‘set a spell.’ This was to confirm that there were no immediate bad results from the shot.
I am writing this some five hours after the fact. Still no irksome side effects to speak of. Not even soreness in my shoulder.
As you know from my previous postings here, I am a big believer in getting inoculated. Will receive my second shot on March third and will update you then on my situation. In the meantime, I hope you will seriously consider getting one, too.
Regular readers know I feel very strongly that getting a flu shot is a good idea and greatly increases our chances of missing out on this annual disease. I have an entire page on flu shot related items.
Now, the National Institutes of Health publication HealthDay reports that getting a seasonal flu shot “might also significantly reduce your risk of stroke.
“We know that cardiovascular diseases tend to hit during winter, and that the risks may be heightened by respiratory infections such as flu. Our study showed a highly significant association between flu vaccination and reduced risk of stroke within the same flu season,” said lead investigator Niro Siriwardena, a professor in the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Lincoln in England.”
I always start advising personal friends as well as readers to get their flu shot in October to be protected for the entire season. That turns out to be a good thing as the study authors said stroke risk reduction was strongest if a person received a shot early in the flu season.
To read more on this season’s flu type in the word flu in the box and the right and click search.