Drink Up or Not? Alcohol Before and After the COVID Vaccine
A restaurant in Tampa, Florida, is offering a promotion for those who get the COVID vaccine. Present official proof you received the COVID-19 vaccine and enjoy a free serving of the establishment’s new Black n’ Blue Burger. It’s “dine-on-us” for getting jabbed and for looking and booking to make this shot in the arm a reality. But here’s a question. What if someone newly vaccinated who takes advantage of this special – or anyone with that same vaccine status – wants to have a cold one, a glass of wine or cocktail with that meal or on its own? In other words, can you drink alcohol after getting the COVID vaccine? Better yet, let’s focus on pre and post. That expands the inquiry to: Should you drink alcohol around the time of taking the COVID vaccine?
The Science on Drinking Alcohol after Vaccinations
An authoritative way to open this discussion would be to cite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So you would think. The CDC website is awash with information regarding COVID-19. What about its parameters on consuming alcohol and receiving the vaccine? In short, they don’t exist, at least at the time of this writing, which is four months from when the highest priority groups got vaccinated.
How does the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) weigh in on this issue? Like the CDC, it mentions nothing definitive or even tentative. An article in Forbes confirms: “The CDC’s guidelines for vaccine side effects include pain, nausea, muscle pain and headache, among others. The agency doesn’t include any advisories against alcohol use.” Forbes adds: “The FDA’s guidelines for vaccine administration and use don’t mention alcohol.”
What do the COVID vaccine manufacturers have to say? The Forbes piece states: “Pfizer has confirmed they don’t give any contraindications relating to alcohol use and the vaccine.”
Can You Drink Alcohol after the COVID Vaccine?
Some in the medical community have chimed in on the subject of alcohol and the COVID vaccine. Sorry, Dr. Fauci is not among them. The problem is that the medical professionals do not necessarily agree. In short, views differ on the effects of consuming alcohol close to getting the COVID vaccine.
“There isn’t a hard and fast answer,” reports ABC Channel 7 Eyewitness News. This perspective flows from comments from an ER specialist and CEO of Mend Urgent Care in Los Angeles. This physician says: “There’s no ill effects, no danger of having an alcoholic beverage while you’ve been vaccinated. It just may put you under the weather a little more than anticipated with the vaccine in and of itself.” Then the issue gets cloudy. He adds: “We do know that alcohol is a toxin that our liver has to metabolize, so it’s advisable as you’re mounting the immune response to the vaccine, you want your body to be in tip-top shape and not having to be taxed by anything else.”News Channel 8 in Tampa asks: “So can you drink alcohol before and after you get the vaccine?” Based on its research, it states: “While there is no firm answer, most health officials advise against drinking because of the symptoms that may occur after you get your dose.” As evidence, it quotes a physician from NYU Langone Health: “Vaccine side effects include muscle aches and pains and feeling under the weather. Compounding that with the side effects of alcohol runs the risk of making you feel worse.” But this media outlet doesn’t stop there. Re alcohol vis-à-vis immunity, they turn to co-director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group. He notes “an occasional drink,” which includes one after the final dose, “won’t have an effect.”
The Verdict on Alcohol after the COVID Vaccine
What’s the verdict on drinking alcohol after getting the COVID vaccine? Be judicious. The Channel 8 team concludes: “Ultimately, while having a drink after getting either of your doses won’t make your recovery any harder, health officials agree that instead of having alcohol, you should focus on staying hydrated and taking care of yourself in case of symptoms of the vaccine.”
There are no formal recommendations on alcohol and the COVID vaccine. Opinions vary among those who advise drinking or abstaining after vaccinations. But the medical experts agree one point. If you drink around the time of getting the shot(s), go light. The News & Observer addresses the volume of alcohol. A post entitled “Is it OK to drink alcohol before or after COVID vaccination? What to know” includes excessive alcohol use, or binge drinking. The CDC defines this term both scientifically and practically. The latter translates to “5 or more drinks” for men or “4 or more drinks” for women “in about 2 hours.”
The counsel here is to avoid this pattern of drinking at vaccine time. The reasons are twofold. The hangover symptoms produced by heavy drinking exacerbate potential flu-like side effects from the vaccine. The other relates to the efficacy of the vaccine; it comes from a physician at Loyola University who specializes in immunology. This expert, who underscored the effects of alcohol on the immune system, recommends those who imbibe should refrain from excessive drinking “for at least a week before the first dose.” A medical specialist in the U.K. adds: “Long term heavy drinking reduces immune protection, and specifically for respiratory infections, which include Covid-19.” What does she advise for those in this category? Get vaccinated.
Alcohol and the COVID Vaccine
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For those with a substance use disorder who find it difficult to stop drinking before or after getting the COVID vaccine, know that you are not alone. Every year millions of Americans struggle with alcohol abuse. Luckily, help is just a phone call away. Don’t wait to start your recovery; from addiction or from COVID-19.