Will Taking Alcohol Within 45 Days After the COVID Jab Compromise Immune Response?

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Claims that one should avoid taking alcohol for 45 days after getting the COVID-19 vaccine so as to avoid compromising immune response have been circulating online.

The claim has been published on various platforms, including the Opera News platform, Twitter as well as on Facebook accounts including an account that impersonates The Kenya Police Service account. Attached to the posts shared is a screenshot of a newspaper cutting warning people not to take alcohol for 45 days after vaccination.

Background

Various countries have rolled out COVID-19 vaccination programs since the first vaccine was authorized for use in December 2020. Based on the CNN COVID-19 vaccine tracker, at least 209 countries and territories have begun vaccinating their population. Check out our COVID-19 vaccines tracker for Kenya powered by the Africa Data Hub here.

The major global challenge, however, stands to be a vast disparity in vaccine administration between high-income countries and low-income countries. According to the World Health Organization, low and lower-middle-income countries, which account for 47% of the world’s population, have received 17% of the COVID-19 vaccines compared to 83% of the vaccines administered in high and middle-upper income countries. This spectacle, identified by the WHO as vaccine nationalism and vaccine diplomacy, has challenged vaccine equity globally, which Director-General Tedrod Adhanom had previously declared to be “short-sighted and self-defeating”, warning that, “We will not end the COVID-19 pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere”.

Verification

Piga Firimbi found that contents of the newspaper cutting with the headline ‘Do not consume alcohol for 45 days after vaccination’ were directly lifted from an article published on an Indian-based news website called The Hindu.

A screenshot of the article published on The Hindu news website

 

The article quotes Dr M.K. Sudarshan, the chairman of  India’s COVID-19 Technical Advisory Committee. Dr Sudarshan’s warning about taking alcohol within 45 days of getting the COVID-19 shot was also published in an article on the Times of India news website. He is quoted to have said that those who get vaccinated should not consume alcohol until 45 days after vaccination, adding that alcohol is not advisable after any vaccination as it is known to affect immune response.

Alcohol is indeed known to have a negative effect on the body if taken in copious amounts. However, there is no evidence that consuming alcohol immediately after the COVID-19 shot will directly impact the immune response.

“Excessive alcohol consumption weakens your immune response”, a post from the WHO indicates. The same post however debunks the claim that taking alcohol after vaccination has an effect on the vaccine’s efficacy. According to the WHO, there is no proven link between alcohol intake and the effectiveness of vaccines, and there are no specific guidelines on the use of alcohol in relation to the vaccines. At the same time, those experiencing side effects after vaccination are advised to avoid alcohol as it will make them feel worse.

 

Uganda’s Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health, Dr Diana Atwine also responded to this claim saying that there is no evidence supporting the claim that people should avoid alcohol for 45 days after the COVID-19 vaccine. She however cautions that consuming a lot of alcohol, as usual, affects the body.

“First of all, alcohol as a chemical has an effect on the body,” Dr Atwine said, “because the liver is [like] the factory of the body so anything that we take, there is that breakdown. So when you consume a lot of alcohol it stimulates the liver to start making a lot of enzymes, and those enzymes destroy whatever you take in, for example, medicine. That’s why you find [that] for people who take a lot of alcohol if you are going to give them anaesthesia you are going to give them a little more for them to sleep because their liver is so active that it breaks down all those chemicals. So it is the same principle.”

“We advise that when you take the vaccine, do not take a lot of alcohol. Do not intoxicate your body. It is just for the good of the people. But there is no data to show that when you have a vaccine you have to keep away from alcohol for 45 days. There is no science about that. It referred really to those that do a lot of drinking because every time you have that kind of alcohol in your body it causes some kind of hyperactivity’, said Dr Atwine.

Verdict

Claims that consuming alcohol within 45 days after getting vaccinated would apparently compromise immune response are MISLEADING.

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Linda Ngari