Older people should exercise regularly ahead of Covid-19 vaccination, study finds

Regular aerobic or moderate exercise prior to vaccination can help improve antibody responses in older people. Photo: Dan Charity/Getty Images
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Regular aerobic or moderate exercise in weeks and months prior to Covid-19 vaccination can help improve antibody responses post-vaccination in older people, according to researchers at Trinity College Dublin.

The recommendation is outlined in a report by scientists leading the ongoing Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (Tilda). Adults aged 60 and older should consistently incorporate some form of exercise such as a brisk walk at least two to three times per week prior to vaccination, they conclude.

As vaccination of the Irish population is rolled out, it is critically important that lessons from previous vaccination programmes among older adults are used to inform current efforts, their report says.

Vaccine efficacy in older adults can be a challenge due to ageing effects on the immune system. As people age, ability to produce robust antibody responses following vaccination declines; they are less likely to generate long-term protection often required for full immunity to a virus.

Health behaviours


Tilda researchers evaluated information on flu vaccine uptake and health behaviours which govern vaccine efficacy, ahead of rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine for older adults.

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Their report analyses data from Tilda participants between 2016 and 2019, outlining prevalence of flu vaccination and levels of physical activity among those who received the vaccine – notably evidence showing the positive effects of prolonged physical activity on vaccine efficacy.

It shows 65 per cent of participants accessed information via national radio channels; 43 per cent accessed information via national newspapers, and less than 7 per cent of older adults accessed public health information through government websites. “This is an important consideration when communicating messaging on the vaccine,” they underline.

Tilda’s principal investigator Prof Rose Anne Kenny said their findings provide strong evidence and positive guidelines for rolling out a successful vaccination programme targeting older adults.

“Any action which will boost immunity and in particular the immune response to the SAR2CoV vaccine is very important. Moreover, Tilda’s report indicates the appropriate channels of communication to reach older adults with effective messaging since the start of the pandemic, a key element in promoting the uptake of vaccination in older adults,” she said.

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