Like everything good in life, the COVID vaccine comes with its own little asterisk mark of ‘conditions applied’.
Along with the various possible side effects, there is also a list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ that one must keep in mind when they get the vaccine, such as do not take it if you have severe allergies.
Of course, there is also the DO NOT stop wearing masks once you are vaccinated, and the DO still maintain social distancing – because you could be carriers and infect others.
While these won’t deter most of us, there is one other fine-print requirement that may not be quite as palatable.
This being the ‘do not drink alcohol for 45 days’ after getting vaccinated recommendation.
However, the validity of this particular guideline is unclear as there is no published data on the effects of alcohol on the specific COVID vaccines.
Neither the US Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) nor the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have talked about restricting alcohol consumption in any of their COVID vaccine guidelines. Furthermore, neither Pfizer nor Moderna or the Oxford-AstraZeneca has mentioned alcohol consumption as a contraindication, nor have they warned against it.
The waters were made murky with conflicting views that emerged from officials in Russia after the Sputnik vaccine was rolled out.
It started with the first vaccination drive in Russia, back in December, when a health official recommended 42 days of abstaining from drinking alcohol post getting vaccinated.
But backlash and outrage from the public caused officials to clarify that the recommendation was meant to curb heavy drinking as it may disrupt the immune system’s response to the vaccine.
So what is the truth about COVID vaccines and drinking alcohol?
Should you keep away from alcohol for 45 days after being vaccinated? Is it dangerous to drink alcohol after vaccination? Will it affect the vaccine?
FIT spoke to Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, Internal Medical Specialist at Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, and Dr Swapneil Parikh, Internal Medicine Specialist in Mumbai and author of ‘The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic’, to break it down for us.
If the prospect of having to turn into a teetotaler for 2 months is making you second guess getting the vaccine, ‘don’t’, say experts.
“Alcohol is not a contraindication to taking the vaccine,” says Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, adding, “There is no proven medical reason for completely curbing alcohol before or after getting vaccinated.”
Dr Swapneil Parikh adds, “No one should feel that they should avoid the vaccine because they don’t want to stop drinking alcohol. It’s a good idea to reduce alcohol but it’s not mandatory for vaccination,” saying that no vaccine trial has evaluated such advice.
“I would urge everyone to moderate their alcohol intake for their general well-being. But saying that one needs to stop alcohol for 45 days specifically for the vaccine is not based on evidence.”Dr Swapneil Parikh, Internal Medicine Specialist, Mumbai
Then Why the Recommendation?
Dr Chatterjee is of the opinion that the recommendation that comes from Russia was a way to curb binge drinking, which can play with the side effects of the vaccine.
“Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol could lead to a hangover, the symptoms of which could aggravate the otherwise mild side effects of the vaccine like headaches and nausea.”Dr Suranjeet Chatterjee, Internal Medical Specialist at Apollo Hospital, New Delhi
Dr Parikh explains that excessive alcohol can impact the functioning of the immune system, saying it could reduce the ability of the body to respond to antigens.
“Avoiding alcohol will give the immune system the best chance to produce a robust immune response against the virus’s antigens.”Dr Swapneil Parikh, Internal Medicine Specialist, Mumbai
“While reducing alcohol may improve your response to the vaccine and will definitely improve your health in general, it is by no means a mandatory requirement,” he adds.
Dr Chatterjee goes on to clear up the no-drinking-for-45-days guideline, saying that there is no evidence to suggest that the body’s response to the vaccine and its effectiveness would change depending on how many days you stop drinking.
“So, if it's one day or 45 days of no alcohol, it doesn't make any difference,” he says.
For General Health, Avoid Binge Drinking
While consuming alcohol itself won’t affect COVID vaccines, both Dr Parikh and Dr Chatterjee advise against binge drinking as a rule of thumb.
Though it has nothing to do with the vaccine, binge drinking can lead to immunosuppression, explains Dr Chatterjee, as too much alcohol over a course of years, can deteriorate your immunity.
“But this isn’t something that happens in a matter of a couple of days,” he adds.
(This was first published on FIT and has been republished with permission.)