wellness·4 min read

Is It OK to Drink After Getting Your COVID Vaccine?

Woman Pouring Glass of Rose
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Jun 28, 2022

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition.

POV: You’ve just gotten vaxxed. You’re not feeling too badly after your jab, and wondering if it’s okay to swing by happy hour. We asked Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, about what you need to know before you pick up a drink after getting your COVID-19 vaccine.

Can you drink after the COVID vaccine? 

Technically, yes. There’s no evidence that having a drink can impact the vaccine’s effectiveness. “There’s no safety concern with drinking a moderate amount post-vaccination,” said Dr. Adalja. “Heavy drinking can diminish immune responses to some degree, however.” 

One caveat: Though extremely rare, some specific types of COVID-19 vaccines (think: Johnson & Johnson) have been linked to a condition called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), which occurs when a blood clot forms in the brain's sinuses. 

“CVST is rare but has been linked to both adenovirus-vectored COVID-19 vaccines Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca predominantly in women of child-bearing age,” said Dr. Adalja. “Moderate drinkers have a lower risk of this rare condition, while heavy drinkers have a higher risk.”

All that to say: There are multiple studies that show heavy drinking can generally harm your immune system. So avoid drinking heavily as your body recovers post-vax.

Back up. What’s the difference between moderate and heavy drinking? 

Moderate drinking is a maximum of one drink a day for women and two drinks for men. Heavy drinking is defined as three or more drinks for women and four or more drinks for men. PSA: A standard drink is 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine. 

Drinking moderately doesn’t seem to impact the efficacy of your COVID-19 vaccine or harm your immune system (as long as you're generally in good health). Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can make you more vulnerable to viral and bacterial infections. Because alcohol prevents immune cells from reaching the infection sites and destroying the bacteria and viruses harming your body. Drinking an excessive amount also has the potential to make your COVID-19 vaccine side effects worse. Uh, no thanks.

Got it, no heavy drinking. But could moderate drinking amplify any side effects I might have from the vaccine? 

While the vaccine is FDA-approved and safe to take, you could experience some side effects up to six weeks after being jabbed, including: 

  • Pain or redness at the injection site

  • Headache

  • Muscle pain

  • Fever 

  • Nausea

Moderate drinking shouldn’t have an impact on these symptoms, according to Dr. Adalja. But, "if someone is hungover from heavy drinking, the hangover symptoms [could] compound the post-vaccination symptoms,” he cautioned. 

Contact your medical provider to see if you can take an over-the-counter medicine to help with the side effects. Or, if your injection site looks worse after 24 hours or if the side effects don’t fade after a couple of days.

“If someone has unremitting fever, exquisite pain, inability to perform activities of daily living, severe headache, weakness of a limb, chest pain, or shortness of breath, they should see a physician,” said Dr. Adalja. 

theSkimm 

Drinking in moderation is unlikely to impact the efficacy of your COVID-19 vaccine. But it's best avoid heavy drinking after getting your vaccine and overall. And talk to your medical provider if have post-vaccine side effects that last longer than a few days. 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 


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