Max the Vax

Globe surrounded by vaccine
Illustration: Alisa Wortley

In the wake of the Greater Brisbane three-day lockdown, COVID vaccines are being rolled out across the state. To get the most out of the vaccination, Shane Budden has put together some tips to maximise the vaccine’s effectiveness.

Most of us know that the best chance of the world returning to normal is to get most (and preferably all) of us vaccinated. That said, we need to keep in mind what vaccines actually do, and what that means for us.

A vaccine does not create a magic shield around you that repels the virus. The vaccines currently available will generally mean that if you encounter the virus, you’ll be a bit less likely to catch it, but more importantly if you do you will only get a mild case and be far less likely to pass it on. Unfortunately, no vaccine is perfect – around 5% of people get no benefit from any given vaccine – and the COVID vaccines are only being touted as being around 65% – 90% effective, depending on whom you ask.

The good news is that there are things you can do to give the vaccine the best chance of protecting you. While of course there are no guarantees, here is what science currently recommends:

1. Don’t stress

Easier said than done, of course, but studies show that being stressed increases the time your body takes to build up immune responses to viruses. This is important both pre – and – post vaccination, so scheduling a massage a day or two after your jab isn’t a bad idea, and doing things that relax you for a couple of days beforehand will likely help.

2. Get some sleep

We have long known that a good night’s sleep is good for our health, but it seems it is vital for our immune system. Studies involving the flu vaccine show that getting a good sleep on the two nights before receiving the vaccine is the best predictor of long-lasting immune responses.


3. Stay social

Again, not so easy right now, but maintaining friendship and family networks really does help. Work by Sarah Pressman of the University of California showed that social support decreased the risk of illness.

4. Watch your alcohol intake

Heavy drinking before or after vaccination has been found to interfere with the body’s immune cell function, and will probably reduce the effectiveness of COVID vaccines. Christopher Thompson, a biologist at Loyola University, Maryland, advises avoiding heavy drinking for at least two, and preferably four, weeks after vaccination.

5. Exercise

Yes, like every other list you have read covering how to make something better, exercise is here too. People who regularly exercise have higher antibody responses to flu vaccinations and that will likely carry over to COVID vaccines. One study showed that even a 15-minute upper-body workout before vaccination resulted in stronger immune responses.

6. Stop doomscrolling

Ill news is an ill guest, and it can make you ill. Being glued to a screen scrolling through a litany of bad news stories will increase stress levels and also suppress immune responses. Many studies over the years have shown the benefits of positive attitudes to medical situations, from minor illnesses to the effectiveness of cancer treatment. Get off your twitter feed and call your mum, you’ll feel better for it – literally.

Naturally, not everyone will be able to do the above things, but even one or two will be beneficial – and in any event, the most important thing is to get vaccinated when you get the chance. Even without taking the above steps, vaccination is our best strategy against this virus, and the only way to get the world back to normal.

NB: I am a lawyer, so here’s the disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and the best thing you can do to learn about the vaccines and what action you should take is to visit your GP. The information in this article comes from New Scientist Magazine, in particular issue 3321, 13 February 2021.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search by keyword