Study Finds Wearables Viable For Tracking Responses To Covid-19 Vaccine

Researchers at Scripps Research have recently published a new digital health study that demonstrates how data from wearable sensors, such as smartwatches and activity bands, can monitor a person’s physiological reaction to the COVID-19 immunization. The study, which was published in the npj Digital Medicine journal, examined sensor data on heart rate, activity, and sleep from over 5,600 participants. The information was obtained from a larger initiative known as DETECT (Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment), which was started in March 2020. The initiative enables users to manually enter symptoms, test results, and immunization status in addition to sharing physiological and behavioral data obtained through a fitness band or wristwatch.

The study revealed that the average resting heart rate of study participants considerably rose the day after vaccination, peaked two days later, and then gradually returned to normal four and six days after the first and second doses, respectively. The study indicates that prior COVID-19 infection was associated with a significantly higher resting heart rate increase after the first vaccine dose in comparison to those who had not previously been infected. This is in addition to increases in resting heart rate being higher after the second dose of the Moderna vaccine compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This growth is consistent with the expected higher immunological response for the participants.

The results also indicated that individuals under the age of 40 had higher increases in resting heart rate than older individuals, but only after the second dosage. Women also reported greater increases in resting heart rate than men did in the five days following immunization after the first dose. Additionally, the first dosage appeared to have no impact on activity and sleep patterns, while the second dose resulted in a considerable reduction in activity and an increase in sleep when compared to the baseline.

The Scripps Research Translational Institute’s director of artificial intelligence and the study’s primary author, Giorgio Quer, believes that the research is significant for the adoption of commercial sensors for evaluating physiological responses to vaccinations. “Investigating the physiological signals in the period around vaccination can help us better understand the variability of vaccine response between people, as well as the changes from an individual norm due to vaccination,” Quer says.  “As these individual changes are due to a person’s initial immune response to the vaccine, they can potentially help guide future vaccine development to optimize their efficacy and safety, and allow for more precise, individualized vaccine regimens.”