My Patients Ask — St. Patty’s Day, alcohol, and the COVID vaccine

I’m Irish and looking forward to celebrating St. Patrick’s Day this evening. I have a COVID vaccine scheduled for tomorrow. Will my green beer tonight have an effect on the vaccine?

I don’t know about green beer in particular, but experts have varying opinions on alcohol immediately before or after the COVID vaccination.

For example, alcohol can occasionally accelerate allergic reactions. So, one allergist has written, “Since we do not yet know enough about the influence of alcohol on allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines, I recommend avoiding drinking alcohol for 24 hours before and after your vaccination.”

Christopher Thompson, PhD, associate professor at Loyola University Maryland’s Department of Biology who specializes in immunology and microbiology, warns that excessive alcohol use should be avoided around the time of vaccination.

He notes that though there is no specific data yet around alcohol and the COVID-19 vaccine, “most of the available data on how alcohol impacts the immune system and vaccine responses suggest that, in general, people should avoid binge drinking and heavy drinking around the time of the vaccination,” he said. “Ideally, this would be avoided for at least a week before the first dose and one month after the second dose.”

Experts in the United Kingdom agree and recently warned that people should avoid drinking alcohol in the days before and after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

“You need to have your immune system working tip-top to have a good response to the vaccine, so if you’re drinking the night before, or shortly afterward, that’s not going to help,” Sheena Cruickshank, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Manchester, told UK Metro.

Nevertheless, there’s no official government recommendation on this, and some experts say it’s not really something to worry about. They point out that research on both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines didn’t require trial participants to avoid alcohol, and their findings didn’t mention people having issues after drinking.

“There is no need to abstain from alcohol after either dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Dr. Sandro Cinti, an infectious disease specialist at Michigan Medicine. “There is no evidence or CDC guidance to suggest that this needs to be done.”

“There is no evidence that alcohol reduces the formation of antibodies,” says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician and a professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical.

However, he does recommend watching your alcohol intake in the days after getting vaccinated for a different reason. Some people may experience flu-like side effects like fever, chills, fatigue, and a headache, and “being intoxicated or hungover will make things less pleasant,” he says.

So, there’s no clear evidence one way or the other. However, if you decide to celebrate tonight with a St. Patty’s day drink (either at home or with a designated driver), just keep it within recommended daily guidelines: two drinks for men and one for women.

Cheers!


This blog was accurate as of the day of posting. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus and the COVID vaccine develops, the information above may have changed since it was last updated. While I aim to keep all of my blogs on COVID and the COVID vaccine up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news.

© Copyright WLL, INC. 2021. This blog provides a wide variety of general health information only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from your regular physician. If you are concerned about your health, take what you learn from this blog and meet with your personal doctor to discuss your concerns.

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