Can I Have a Drink after My Booster Jab?

·5-min read
Photo credit: retales botijero - Getty Images
Photo credit: retales botijero - Getty Images

The national booster effort to protect the population from the Omicron variant has sparked into gear, with dizzying numbers of jabs injected over the past weeks (740,775 were given in England on Friday, alone.)

Given the timing – hello, Christmas! – you might be wondering what the deal is with alcohol and the Covid-19 vaccines. Can you imbibe a festive Prosecco after? What about before?

Can I drink alcohol after the COVID vaccine?

In terms of absolute 'dos and don'ts' which are rooted in research? We don't have the data or the official advice, right now. This may come, later.

The most important thing, regardless of your drinking habits, is that you get your booster ASAP, to protect your health and that of more vulnerable people

'There is no official published guidance or current published research into alcohol and the COVID vaccines,' says Dr Sonya Dhand, a GP and A&E doctor, based in Manchester.

'There is general advice: alcohol, particularly in excessive amounts, can affect your immune system. This could make you more susceptible to infections, including COVID.'

Alcohol, especially in large quantities, then, is not a good shout when trying to protect your immune system – including in the time after you get your shot.

What counts as 'low-risk drinking?'

If you do drink after your shot (or anytime!) 'drink in moderation,' advises Dr Dhand. That means no more than the limit of 14 units maximum per week recommended by the NHS. (That's not to say that drinking this volume is recommended, just that you shouldn't exceed it if you want to keep your drinking in the 'low risk' category. The NHS )

This is the equivalent of 10 small glasses of low-strength wine over a week. A warning: this should categorically not all be downed in a single session. The NHS states that your units should be spread over three or more days a week, if you do hit the 14 unit threshold, and the UK Chief Medical Officer advises that several days each week are alcohol-free.

But, when it comes to priorities, Dr Dhand stresses that the most important thing is that you do get your booster, as quickly as possible, to protect your own health and that of others.

Okay. Is there any other advice around drinking alcohol after the COVID vaccine?

You might have come across some advice from the independent medical advisory panel for alcohol education charity, Drinkaware. Like Dr Dhand, it stresses that getting your booster – whether you drink booze, or not – is of paramount importance.

It also offers some 'precautionary advice' with regards to drinking and the vaccine. This is grounded in data on the negative impact of alcohol on your body's ability to build up immunity (the point of a vaccine) in some vaccines.

'While there is no published data about the specific effects of alcohol on the human body's response to the Covid-19 vaccination, there is some evidence that drinking alcohol, especially regular heavy drinking, could interfere with your body’s ability to build immunity in response to some vaccines,' said Dr Fiona Sim, Drinkaware's Chief Medical Officer.

'We are very keen to stress how important it is for you to get vaccinated. We do know that, since the onset of the pandemic last year, between one fifth and one third of people have been drinking more than they do usually.

'So, as far as alcohol is concerned, we advise that you consider not drinking for two days before, and up to two weeks after you've been vaccinated, to try to ensure your immune system is at its best to respond to the vaccine and protect you. But it's really important to know that, even if you do drink, you'll still benefit from having the jab, so please don't turn it down.'

If you do drink, again the advice is to keep it within NHS guidelines: no more than 14 units of alcohol each week, spread across the week and ensuring that several days a week are drink-free.

Can I drink alcohol before the COVID vaccine?

Best not to. Before heading to your jab, Dr Dhand recommends that you swerve the booze so that you arrive ready to answer any questions that your medical pro might have, before they administer the vaccine, and so that you are in a position to give clear-headed consent to receiving the medicine.

So what's the upshot with alcohol and the COVID vaccine?

Making precise recommendations that are fully confirmed by data is not possible, right now. We don't have clinical trial data pertaining to the effect of drinking alcohol on your body, after you've been jabbed with any of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Heeding general advice around alcohol – no more than 14 units a week, spreading them out and taking several alcohol-free days a week – is always a good idea, especially given that the sauce can impact your immune system. Plus, COVID aside, trying out mindful drinking or taking a break from the hard stuff comes with myriad benefits, from boosted mental health to increased focus.

If your drinking is a problem and you would like help giving up you can get support via the NHS. Want to just take a break and see how you feel? Try the Drink Free Days app

You may also want to listen to the Drinkaware advice around taking a short break after having your shot. This is given that we know that drinking, particularly regularly and heavily, can mess with your body's capability to build up a vaccine-induced immune response, with some vaccines. This would be a precaution, but a sensible one.

The key, as ever, though? Regardless of your imbibing intentions: get boosted as fast as you can.

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