Can you drink alcohol after having a vaccine?

A toast to immunization against covid-19! Can it ?! According to experts, that’s okay, since there is no evidence that having a drink or two could make any of the vaccines available today less effective. The problem arises when alcohol consumption changes from moderate to intense.

Excessive alcohol consumption can suppress the immune system and interfere with the response to the vaccine, experts say. And since it can take weeks for the body to generate optimal levels of antibodies against the new coronavirus after immunization, any attitude that interferes with the immune response should be a cause for concern.

Excessive alcohol can interfere with the immune response.Source: Pixabay

“If you really drink moderately, there is no risk of drinking after getting the vaccine,” he said in an interview with The New York Times (NYT), Ilhem Messaoudi, director of the Virus Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, United States. A specialist in the effects of alcohol on the immune response, Messaoudi explained: “It is dangerous to drink alcohol in excess because the effects on all biological systems, including the immune system, are very serious”.

The most important thing then, as the end of all beer advertising says, is: “drink in moderation”. But, after all, what is the safe amount of alcohol intake?

What is moderate consumption

Moderate consumption is generally defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and, at most, one drink per day for women. Heavy drinking is defined as four or more drinks on any given day for men and three or more drinks for women. A “standard” drink in Brazil is 14 grams of pure alcohol, according to the Health and Alcohol Information Center – CISA. This is equivalent to 350 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine or 45 ml of distillate.

Alcohol vs Immunization

The concern about alcohol and vaccination started after a statement by a Russian health official in December. He said people should avoid alcohol for two weeks before and 42 days after immunization. According to a report by the Reuters, the official said that alcohol can impair the ability to develop immunity against the new coronavirus. Russia, with one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in the world, has had a violent reaction.

In the United States, the concern was similar: “We received a lot of questions from our patients about this,” he told the NYT Dr. Angela Hewlett, associate professor of infectious diseases and director of the covid-19 team at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “Understandably, the people who are receiving these vaccines want to be sure that they are doing everything right to maximize their immune response,” said the professor.

Clinical trials of covid-19 vaccines used in the United States have not analyzed whether alcohol has any impact on its effectiveness, according to Dr. Hewlett. For now, most of what is known comes from previous research – including studies that examined how alcohol affects the immune system in humans in general and whether it impeded the immune response in animals that received other vaccines.

Animal study

In a previous study, Dr. Messaoudi and his colleagues had given rhesus monkeys access to alcohol for seven months and then looked at how their bodies responded to a poxvirus vaccine. The researchers found that animals that drank too much had almost no response to the vaccine. Themonkeys that consumed only moderate amounts of alcohol generated the strongest response to the vaccine, even compared to abstainers.

As with humans, some rhesus monkeys like alcohol.As with humans, some rhesus monkeys like alcohol.Source: Pixabay

When alcohol becomes a problem

Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption impairs the immune response and increases susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, as it prevents immune cells from moving to infection sites and fulfilling their functions, such as destroying viruses, bacteria and infected cells. Alcohol also makes it easier for pathogens to invade cells and causes a number of other problems.

Dr. Hewlett also warned that drinking too much alcohol could potentiate any side effects that may occur with the covid-19 vaccine, including fever, malaise and body aches.

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