As vaccine production starts to ramp up, millions of people are expected to receive their covid-19 vaccine in the hopes of returning to a normal life. After months of restrictions and social distancing, this is most definitely a cause for celebration. But before you pop open a bottle, should you be drinking alcohol after getting your shot? Are there any side effects?
Alcohol research studies have shown that alcohol can cause inflammation in the gut and can alter the makeup of the microbiome. This can damage the trillion of microorganisms that live in the gut and are responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system.
This leads to the damage of immune cells in the blood, known as white blood cells, including lymphocytes, which send out antibodies to attack viruses.
So far, experts in the United Kingdom have warned that people should avoid drinking alcohol in the days before and after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. “You need to have your immune system working tip-top to have a good response to the vaccine, so if you’re drinking the night before, or shortly afterwards, that’s not going to help,” Sheena Cruickshank, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Manchester, told UK Metro.
Alcohol Weakens Your Immune System
In an experiment conducted by emergency medicine specialist Dr Ronx Ikharia, it was found that drinking three glasses of Prosecco (a type of Italian white wine) was enough to bring down the levels of lymphocyte cells in blood samples by as much as 50 per cent. The reduction in lymphocytes could lower the effectiveness of the body’s immune response.
Lymphocytes are of ‘fundamental importance’ in the immune system because they determine immune response to infectious microorganisms and other foreign substances, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In adults, lymphocytes make up roughly 20 to 40 percent of the total number of white blood cell and are concentrated in central lymphoid organs and tissues, such as the spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes, where initial immune response is likely to occur.
Don’t Drink Near The Time of Vaccination
Christopher Thompson, PhD, associate professor at Loyola University Maryland’s Department of Biology who specializes in immunology and microbiology, warns that excessive alcohol use should be avoided around time of vaccination.
He notes that though there is no specific data yet around alcohol and the COVID-19 vaccine, “most of the available data on how alcohol impacts the immune system and vaccine responses suggest that, in general, people should avoid binge drinking and heavy drinking around the time of the vaccination,” he said. “Ideally, this would be avoided for at least a week before the first dose and one month after the second dose.”
“Especially with heavy alcohol consumption, the immune system does not work as well as it should,” Thompson said. “We see functional dysregulation of many immune cells while also seeing an increase in inflammation and pro-inflammatory molecules throughout the whole body.”
Heavy alcohol use is also associated with a number of other health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and liver disease.