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It’s well documented that alcohol has a negative effect on your immune system, and studies have linked excessive alcohol consumption to more severe respiratory infections. However, there’s no evidence that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol will impact the effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Dietary Guidelines for America define a moderate amount of alcohol as two or less drinks per day for men and one drink or less per day for women.

Researchers have not yet examined the effects of heavy drinking or “binge drinking” on the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. But to be on the safe side, it’s likely a good idea to avoid increasing your alcohol intake in the several days after getting a vaccine.

Let’s look at how alcohol affects your immune system and whether it’s safe to drink alcohol after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

The purpose of COVID-19 vaccines is to help your immune system recognize the virus that causes COVID-19 as a foreign invader.

It’s currently not entirely known how alcohol consumption affects your vaccine response. COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States had to go through rigorous clinical trials to assess their safety before the FDA authorized them. These trials did not examine whether alcohol affects vaccine effectiveness.

It’s likely that drinking moderately in the days following your vaccine will not change its effectiveness.

Some early studies on macaques (monkeys), rats, and people have found some evidence that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with improved cardiovascular health and possibly immune health. But much more research is needed to back these findings.

To be on the safe side, it’s probably best to either keep your alcohol consumption the same or reduce it for at least a few days after receiving your vaccine.

As reported by Reuters, a Russian health official released a warning in December 2020 that people receiving the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine should avoid alcohol for 2 weeks before their first injection and for 4 weeks after their second injection. The logic was that alcohol may reduce your ability to build immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Dr. Alexander Gintsburg, the head of the research team that produced the Sputnik V vaccine, has since shared on the official Sputnik V social media account that a complete ban on alcohol is not necessary and that moderate consumption is alright. He advised avoiding drinking for 3 days after receiving each injection or any other vaccine.

Alcohol and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis

Some types of COVID-19 vaccines, such as Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, have potentially been associated with a condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) in extremely rare cases. CVST is a blood clot in the sinuses of the brain.

In an April CDC report, only 9 total cases of CVST had been recorded after nearly 200 million vaccines had been administered.

According to the Italian Society on Alcohol, alcohol is linked to negative platelet function that may increase the risk of coagulation disorders like CVST. It’s possible that heavy drinking in combination with vaccination may contribute to the development of this rare complication, although future studies are needed to understand if this is indeed the case.

The vast majority of people who receive a COVID-19 vaccine only experience mild side effects. For example, the most common symptom with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is soreness around the vaccine site.

It’s a good idea to schedule your vaccine for the end of the day or a time when you have some downtime in case you experience headaches or fatigue.

You can take over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol) if you develop uncomfortable symptoms like:

  • joint pain
  • muscle pain
  • headaches
  • pain around the injection site
Medical emergency

Inflammation of your heart and the lining of your heart is also a possible rare side effect that should prompt immediate medical attention. Symptoms include:

COVID-19 vaccines help your body recognize the virus that causes COVID-19 as a foreign invader that should be attacked. The way vaccines achieve this varies depending on how they’re made.

There are three primary types of vaccines authorized for emergency use or undergoing large-scale clinical trials in the United States.

  • mRNA vaccines. mRNA vaccines contain material from the virus that allows your body to create white blood cells and antibodies to defend against it. These are Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. It should be noted that this does not cause COVID-19.
  • Protein subunit vaccines. These vaccines include proteins from the virus instead of the entire virus. They teach your body to recognize that the protein is an invader that should be attacked. Novavax experimental vaccine is an example.
  • Vector vaccines. Vector vaccines contain a modified version of a different virus than the one that causes COVID-19. Inside the virus is genetic information from the virus that causes COVID-19. Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are examples.

A moderate amount of alcohol is unlikely to affect your response to your COVID-19 vaccine. To be on the safe side, it’s likely a good idea to avoid increasing your alcohol consumption.

It’s possible that decreasing your alcohol consumption or avoiding alcohol altogether may improve your vaccine response, but there’s no scientific evidence showing that this is the case.

It’s likely a good idea to avoid heavy drinking or binge drinking for at least a few days after receiving each dose of your vaccine.