Together with its updated advice for scuba divers who are planning on returning to the water after recovering from a Covid-19 infection, the Divers Alert Network (DAN) has issued guidelines suggesting that scuba divers and freedivers wait at least seven days before diving after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
The advice, based on current recommendations from the European Medicine Agency (EMA), states that while side effects from the vaccines are generally mild, and there is currently no evidence to suggest that diving may worsen the side effects or have an otherwise negative impact on a diver’s abilities, there have been reports of ‘anecdotal cases of symptoms possibly related to decompression illness (DCI) after uneventful dives in the safe range for DCI, have caused some concern in diver communities.’
Side effects have been reported to various degrees from all of the vaccines currently available. These most commonly range from tenderness or pain around the injection site, headache, fatigue, myalgia (pain or weakness of the muscles), fever, chills, arthralgia (joint pain), and nausea.
Such symptoms have been reported in more than 1 in 10 people, according to the UK government’s vaccine task force reports. The symptoms tend to occur between 12 and 48 hours following the vaccination and last for 24-48 hours, although in rare cases they have been reported to extend up to 7 days.
Divers who have symptoms that persist for longer than 48 hours, or plan to do undertake deep/technical decompression diving are asked to consider extending the waiting period to 14 days before returning to diving after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.
More serious side effects such as anaphylaxis are extremely rare but tend to occur within 30 minutes of the vaccine being given, and generally in people with known allergies. There are no data available for concerns regarding blood clots that have made the headlines recently, however, DAN recommends that people who take medication that may predispose them to ‘thromboembolic incidents’
DAN states that divers must ‘[take] into account that these vaccines are new pharmacological products,’ and in order to ensure that the vaccine’s side effects ‘do not interfere with the completion of any safety-related tasks,’ have recommended the following guidelines specific to scuba divers and freedivers:
[note: these have been edited for length from the original document]
- Sign up to receive the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as it is made available to them
- Observe social distancing, mask-wearing and hygiene protocols, regardless of vaccination status
- Divers should consider waiting a minimum of 7 days after receiving each dose of the vaccine before scuba or freediving
- An extension to 14 days is advised for divers who:
- had side effects persisting for more than 48 hours
- have personal risk factors such as smoking, being overweight, having a chronic metabolic disease (including diabetes), or on medication (including the contraceptive pill) which may predispose them to ‘thromboembolic incidents’ (blood clots)
- Consult a GP/Family doctor should symptoms persist more than 48 hours after receiving the vaccine
Divers are also advised to contact a diving medicine specialist should they have any symptoms related to Decompression Illness following what would otherwise be considered as a ‘low risk’ dive in the 7-day period after a Covid-19 vaccination. Divers and dive professionals are encouraged to report any such incidents to the DAN Europe Medical Division at email@example.com
Read the full report and more Covid-19 diving advice from DAN on the DAN Europe News Page. The recommendations included are currently being evaluated and may change as and when further scientific data comes to light.