After a long year and much anticipation, receiving the Covid-19 vaccine can be cause for celebration, which for some could mean pouring a drink and toasting their new immunity. But can alcohol affect your immune response?
The short answer is that it depends on how much you drink.
There's no evidence that a drink or two can make any of the current Covid vaccines any less effective. Some studies have even found that in the long run, small or moderate amounts of alcohol can actually support the immune system by reducing inflammation.
On the other hand, heavy drinking, especially in the long run, can suppress the immune system and potentially affect your vaccination response, experts say. Since it can take weeks after a Covid shot for the body to generate protective antibodies against the novel coronavirus, anything that disrupts the immune response is cause for concern.
What You Need To Know About The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Break In The United States
- On April 23, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to lift a hiatus on Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine and put a label on an extremely rare but potentially dangerous bleeding disorder.
- Federal health officials are expected to officially recommend states lift the hiatus.
- The vaccine was recently discontinued after reports of a rare bleeding disorder surfaced in six women who received the vaccine.
- The overall risk of developing the disorder is extremely small. Women between the ages of 30 and 39 appear to be most at risk, with 11.8 cases per million doses. There were seven cases per million doses in women between 18 and 49 years of age.
- Almost eight million doses of the vaccine have now been given. There was less than one case per million doses in men and women aged 50 and over.
- Johnson & Johnson had also decided to postpone the launch of its vaccine in Europe for similar reasons, but later decided to continue its campaign after the European Union Medicines Agency announced the addition of a warning. South Africa, devastated by a contagious variant of the virus found there, also stopped using the vaccine but later continued to use it.
"If you are really a moderate drinker, there is no risk of having a drink at the time of your vaccine," said Ilhem Messaoudi, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California at Irvine, who has conducted research on the effects of alcohol on the immune response. “But be very aware of what moderate drinking really means. Drinking large amounts of alcohol is dangerous because the effects on all biological systems, including the immune system, are quite severe and appear fairly quickly after you leave this temperate zone. "
Moderate drinking is generally defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and a maximum of one drink per day for women, while heavy drinking is defined as four or more drinks per day for men and three or more drinks for women. Remember that a "standard" drink is considered to be 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, or 12 ounces of beer.
Some of the first concerns about alcohol and Covid vaccinations came after a Russian health official warned in December that people should abstain from alcohol for two weeks before vaccination, and then abstain for 42 days afterwards. According to a Reuters report, the official claimed that alcohol could affect the body's ability to develop immunity to the novel coronavirus. Their warning sparked a violent backlash in Russia, which has one of the world's highest drinking rates.
April 27, 2021, 7:34 a.m. ET
In the United States, some experts say they heard similar concerns about whether it is safe to drink at the time of vaccination. "We have received a lot of questions from our patients about this," said Dr. Angela Hewlett, an associate professor of infectious diseases who leads the Covid Infectious Diseases team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "Understandably, people who receive these vaccines want to make sure they are taking the right steps to maximize their immune response."
Clinical trials of Covid vaccines currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration did not specifically look at whether alcohol had an effect on the vaccines' effectiveness, said Dr. Hewlett. It is possible that there will be more information on this in the future. Most of what is known, however, comes from previous research, including studies looking at how alcohol affects the immune system in humans and whether it interferes with the immune response in animals that have received other vaccines.
Studies have shown that heavy alcohol consumption impairs the immune response and increases your susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections. It prevents immune cells from reaching foci of infection and performing their tasks, e.g. B. the destruction of viruses, bacteria and infected cells. makes it easier for pathogens to enter your cells and causes a variety of other problems.
In contrast, moderate drinking does not seem to have this effect. In one study, scientists exposed 391 people to five different respiratory viruses and found that moderate drinkers are less likely to develop colds, but not if they are smokers.
In another study, Dr. Messaoudi and colleagues gave rhesus monkeys access to alcoholic beverages for seven months and then studied how their bodies reacted to a vaccine against the smallpox virus. Much like humans, some rhesus monkeys enjoy alcohol and drink a lot, while others show less interest and limit themselves to small amounts. The researchers found that the animals that chronically drank heavily had a poor response to the vaccine. "They had almost no immune response," said Dr. Messaoudi.
However, the animals that consumed moderate amounts of alcohol reacted most strongly to the vaccine, even compared to the tea totalers who consumed no alcohol at all. Studies in rats have found a similar pattern: those who consume large amounts of alcohol have poor immune responses to infections compared to animals given moderate amounts or no alcohol. Other studies have found that people who drink moderately seem to lower markers of inflammation in their blood.
Another reason to moderate your alcohol consumption is that heavy drinking – along with the resulting hangover – can potentially exacerbate all of the Covid vaccine side effects, including fever, malaise, or body aches and make you feel worse, said Dr. Hewlett from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Hewlett chose not to drink after receiving the Covid vaccine. But she said people should feel free to drink as long as they drink within reason.
"A glass of champagne is unlikely to inhibit an immune response," she said. "I think having a festive drink in moderation is fine."
Do you have a health question? Ask well