My Body, the Astra-Zeneca COVID Vaccine, and Health Tracking

At the beginning of March, I got my first shot of the much-discussed Astra-Zeneca vaccine – and it was a great chance to compare between personal feeling and what different wearables with health tracking features showed: a Garmin, a Suunto, and the Oura ring.

Compared to my various teacher colleagues (I teach middle school now, which is also why I was eligible for the vaccine already), my reaction after the vaccination was pretty mild.

We saw pretty consistently that women reacted more strongly, i.e. with more issues; men had less of a reaction to the shot.

My reaction was among the lowest. Is that good? Is that bad? Who knows…

Vaccine? Of course!

To the general discussion about the (Astra-Zeneca) vaccine, I don’t want to say much.

It is being discussed in pretty absurd ways, as if people had suddenly all become vaccine experts–except they obviously aren’t.

I found the decision easy: I am eligible for the vaccination, therefore I am taking that chance. As in, the good chance to get the vaccine. Not the chances that it could go badly.

The adverse reactions some people had are being blown way out of proportion; suffering the infection would certainly be worse. End of story.

In addition, I had my shots for enough other diseases; my yellow vaccine passport (i.e., the International Certificate of Vaccinations) is pretty full. As it should be for someone who’s traveled widely.

My Reaction to the Vaccine

The first night after, I slept far worse (and less) than I already do in an average night. My temperature felt a bit elevated; I woke often and slept badly.

The day after, unsurprisingly, I had a headache and didn’t feel great.

I felt well enough, though, to get out by bike, slowly and carefully, to pick some wild ramps to cook. The fresh cool air actually felt more helpful than resting in bed.

The second night felt considerably better; the day after that, I went for a run again and there was nothing beyond the ordinary.

Monday, it was back to work for me.

Tracking Results

The health trackers and sports wearables I have been trying out during the time of my vaccination have been the Garmin Enduro, the Suunto 7 with its new sleep tracking and body resources analysis (in beta; coming out starting April 19, 2021), and of course the Oura ring.

Garmin Enduro Results

The Garmin Enduro is not exactly the watch for mere health tracking. General health and resources (body battery) and recovery matter for the long-duration endurance pursuits this watch is meant for, though – and it does measure a lot, as a Garmin usually does.

With sleep tracking and body battery, there should be something noticeable… and there kinda was.

March 5, Workday, Afternoon COVID Shot

March 5, the day I got the vaccine in the afternoon, was a workday.

Early wake-up, therefore. A lot of walking as part of my commute.

According to the Garmin Enduro, my “body battery” reached 100 at wake-up time, went down with the commute, and declined throughout the day until I could relax in the evening and finally slept.

The low reached 42; there was more “charge” than drain” during the whole day.

Stress levels were measured as elevated mainly when walking and on commutes, maybe as I was preparing dinner, and at the beginning of work.

Overall, though, the stress level was low (at 21); there was considerably more rest than stress.

March 6, Day after Vaccination

Then came the first day after the vaccination. More jumps in heart rate, and not just as I was active, cycling.

Body battery supposedly still reached 82 during the night, but also went down to a low of 26. And there was considerably more drain than charge.

According to the stress levels measured, there was much less rest (and that on a weekend day) than the workday before, considerably more stress reaching into medium and even high levels.

The stress score on this day is 34, the interpretation says that “You had very few restful moments on this day.”

It’s all no wonder (except perhaps the high body battery) as sleep had been even shorter than usual, and with a strange timeline of stages.

The Garmin interpreted a lot of REM sleep in the second half of the night, but that would be rather strange. The awake times feel appropriate. Respiration and Pulse Ox don’t really say much.

March 7, Day 2 after the Vaccination, Sunday.

Sleep was more like I’d expect from a (for me, anyways) decent night, with a mixture of sleep stages. (I do still wonder about the supposed REM sleep at the very end of the night, though.)

Pulse Ox still doesn’t tell me much; respiration looks interesting with the lower variation in the last third of the night. That’s rather what I’d expect.

Low heart rate throughout the day, except as I did sports.

Body battery back up to 94, only as low as 48, charged (a bit) more than drained throughout the day. Garmin Connect happily states “Good job! You had a nice mix of charge and drain this day.” Okay?

Stress levels back down to 20, lots of rest. Highest “stress” during sports (where I’m not sure that should even have been measured; it probably was only analyzed in short breaks as I changed from cycling to running and stopped the activity recording there, for reasons).

I do wonder what stressed me in the afternoon. My wife? The prospect of Monday?

Monday, March 8.

Total sleep was… relatively usual, but with a large proportion of light sleep, very little deep or REM sleep, and that latter supposedly almost all in the second half of the night.

Pulse Ox again doesn’t tell me much; respiration is measured as much more constant than before.

Up early, back to work.

Walking on commutes again; relatively little HR variation in daily HR.

Body battery is back to reaching 99 at the end of sleep time, gradually declining to a low of 32. This day, there was more drain than charge again; the feedback still likes the “mix of Body Battery charge and drain.”

It’s a monday. Stress is back up a bit higher, at 30, reaching medium and high levels pretty often and long. There was also enough rest, though – or so the analysis says.

Suunto 7 Results

Sleep and resources analysis are new features on the Suunto 7 WearOS smartwatch.

In fact, I only had the possibility of trying them out because I am a beta-tester; the features are not available publicly yet as I write this (and they were only in beta, so results could be different now, some measurements weren’t yet shown on the watch that would be shown now).

March 5, Workday, Afternoon COVID Shot

The day I got the vaccine, the Suunto 7 correctly saw me get up around 5 a.m. Here I don’t start out at 100 “resources”, but only 56%. Sleep quality was moderate (which is my usual).

Resources decline similarly as Body Battery throughout the day.

Heart rate varies more in daily HR recording, and I think fittingly, during the times that also drive up steps and calorie counts – and I’m pretty sure I did run to catch a train home, which would make the HR peak around 17:00 hours appropriate.

Saturday, March 6, Day after the Vaccination

Ouch.

Sleep shortened by a lot, both in terms of wake-up time and in sleep stages. Only 19% “Resources on wake-up,” only 7% gained sleeping… at a sleep quality rated as 14%, “You didn’t sleep very well.”

Yeah, no kidding.

Something went a bit wonky with the “Resources” analysis that day; in the Suunto app on the smartphone, it shows a jump up to 60% as I went out cycling.

It did feel good to go out and move, but that was probably an error in the beta firmware for this feature.

Daily HR reflects the variation on this day nicely, though. The decline in “resources” through the day is visible even with the peaking; activity levels are nicely reflected in steps and calories counts.

March 7, Sunday, Day 2

Sunday, feeling good enough I went out for a run.

Considerably more sleep. Lots of it light, says the Suunto 7’s analysis, but still a very different quality rating of 66%… Although the interpretation still puts it as “You didn’t sleep very well.”

Resources gain of 19%… to still only reach 39% on wake-up. Oh well, I’m not very resourceful, I guess.

Exercise again does me good, though it might have been the same error as the day before. The low decline of resources through the day feels appropriate.

Monday, March 8, Workday.

Okay sleep for me, even 73% quality according to Suunto 7 analysis, but that’s still a “You didn’t sleep very well” again. Same as the Garmin, the analysis shows mainly light sleep, little deep and REM.

“Resources” rose by 22% during sleep, still only reaching 44% upon wake-up.

Through the day, the Suunto 7 analysis sees a constant decline of body resources with 9 active hours, 2:30 inactive, and 4 hours in total stressed.

High HR comes with high step counts and high calorie burn. That’s not exactly surprising; it is as it should be – but then, that’s a good result to see (the opposite would be concerning).

Oura Ring Results

Finally, for a year already, I have been using the Oura ring. It was partly the COVID-pandemic and everything that Oura was doing around it that made me finally decide to get this health-tracking ring.

It mainly provides sleep and readiness tracking, with quite the influence of HRV measurements. And there is a measurement of body temperature, which has become a headline feature in relation to COVID. It had better show something, given that I felt that my body temperature had been elevated that first night.

Saturday, March 6. Day After

In fact, the Oura ring tracking proved truly insightful for this situation: The day after the vaccination, it immediately greeted me with the message that I had “Elevated body temperature” and should therefore take it easy.

Readiness and sleep both showed rather low values and gave warnings; the app also suggested switching to “Rest Mode” (which deactivates activity goals).

The Body temperature page showed a +1.0C higher temperature than before. Readiness wasn’t the lowest I had had it, but still pretty low – and the combination of different factors in the red makes it abundantly clear that something wasn’t good.

As a reminder, I added a “vaccination” tag for the day before and that day.

Sunday, March 7

Day 2, I felt better, and readiness was slightly higher (if still reporting “higher than usual” body temperature and recommending recovery), the sleep score was considerably better.

The app home screen also asked if the tag was still relevant.

I decided to already turn rest mode off again; upon doing so, the app informs that it will provide special guidance for recovery the next days.

Looking back on the app info for that day from later, it reports “Recovery in progress” for that day.

Monday, March 8

Monday, and the body temperature was back to the usual.

Looking back, readiness was higher and “Positive trends” were reported… though my sleep again needs me to “Pay attention.”

That problem with sleep is just the usual, though – unfortunately.

“Educator hustle” does not make for easy sleeping…

HRV trends also show the recovery:

All in all, an interesting and insightful experience.

I’d say that the Oura Ring showed its meddle in health tracking here.

The sports watches also give insight into health aspects, but they are much more at home recording workouts.

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