Can You Drink Alcohol After Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine?

The answer isn't as cut and dry as you might think.

If you haven't had your COVID-19 shot yet, but are considering it, you might have lots of questions about what you should and shouldn't do before and after the vaccine—such as whether it's safe to celebrate finally receiving your shot with a few drinks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has guidelines for people who've been newly vaccinated, and while they recommend avoiding OTC pain meds (like ibuprofen and Tylenol) before the vaccine, there's no mention of alcohol.

As of May 2022, there's no official government recommendation on drinking alcohol before or after any of the three COVID-19 vaccines used in the US, and research on the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines didn't ask trial participants to avoid alcohol. There's also no mention of people having issues after drinking in the trial results. Nor do the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) vaccination guidance for the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines make any reference to alcohol.

"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," Tania Elliott, MD, clinical instructor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told Health.

Jagadeesh Reddy, MD, infectious disease specialist with Providence Mission Hospital in Orange County, California, agreed. "Though there is no data on this, it is advisable to abstain or reduce alcohol intake for the first 48-72 hours after vaccination as this is the usual period one might expect common and usually mild after-effects of vaccination, like fatigue, muscle aches, injection site pain, etc," Dr. Reddy told Health.

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"Another issue is that people who drink alcohol after getting the shot might blame their hangover symptoms on the vaccine," added infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "If they've signed up for the CDC's V-Safe After Vaccination Health Checker, they might report those hangover symptoms as side effects, and even tell other people about them—which could put people off getting the vaccine," Dr. Adalja told Health.

Of course, having a hangover refers more to excessive use of alcohol, which would be ill-advised at any time. And heavy, chronic drinking has been shown to have deleterious effects on the immune system. Even one episode of binge drinking can deal your immune system a temporary blow.

On the other hand, some studies have shown that light to moderate alcohol intake can boost the immune system. One review of the literature, for example, summarizes the beneficial effects that beer and wine seem to have on immunity. Other studies, however, say that a lot more research needs to be done because results are mixed and there are many factors that need to be taken into account regarding alcohol intake and its effects on the body.

So while there's no evidence that drinking alcohol affects the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine or causes any unwanted health effects, and some doctors advise against drinking alcohol immediately after receiving the shot—especially heavy drinking—there is simply no official guidance on this. And while alcohol can have both relaxation and pain-relieving benefits—both good things, especially after receiving your vaccine—the National Institutes of Health (NIH) do not recommend using alcohol to achieve these purposes, partly because the dose necessary for pain relief is higher than what is recommended by the CDC's Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.

Essentially, it's your call regarding a post-vaccination cocktail, but remember to also give your body time to recover. "Focus on rest and hydration," advised Dr. Elliott. If you choose to wait, you can always celebrate with your favorite cocktail a few days later. Just make sure to stick to the CDC's recommended daily guidelines—two drinks or less for men and one or less for women.

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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