Can You Drink After the COVID-19 Vaccine?

COVID-19 (which is contracted through the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus) can affect nearly every system in the body. While drinking in moderation is usually a relatively safe practice, many clients have questions about alcohol consumption and how it relates to COVID. Before answering these questions, you should know what both COVID and alcohol do to the body.

What Does COVID Do to the Body?

While COVID symptoms vary from person to person, there are common ones that the majority of people experience. These symptoms and the likelihood of their occurrence are listed below. These statistics are drawn from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and are ordered from most to least common.

Among clients with mild to moderate cases of COVID who were not hospitalized, symptoms included:

• Headache (70.3%)
• Temporary loss of smell (70.2%)
• Nasal congestion (67.8%)
• Muscle weakness and overall fatigue (63.3%)
• Dry or wet cough (63.2%)
• Generalized and muscular pain (62.5%)
• Runny nose and nasal discharge (60.1%)
• Sore throat (52.9%)
• Long-term loss of smell (52.7%)

Among those whose cases required hospitalization, major symptoms included:

• Fever (68.7%)
• Dry or wet cough (68.5%)
• Breathing difficulties or shortness of breath (65.8%)
• Muscle weakness and fatigue (46.4%)
• Confusion and cognitive disruption (27.3%)
• Muscle pains (20.1%)
• Diarrhea (19.1%)
• Nausea and vomiting (18.8%)
• Headache (13%)
• Sore throat (10.5%)
• Temporary loss of taste (7.2%)
• Loss of smell (6.2%)

It is important to note that it is highly unlikely for someone with COVID to experience all of the above symptoms, no matter the severity of their case. It is also vital to realize that most symptoms of COVID disappear within two weeks for mild or moderate cases. Symptoms usually go away within six weeks in severe cases.

What Does Alcohol Do to the Body?

Perhaps better known are the symptoms of prolonged use or short-term overuse of alcohol. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these symptoms include:

• Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
Higher instances of cancers of the breast, colon, esophagus, head, liver, and neck
• Cognitive disruption including impaired memory, mood swings, and other behavioral changes
• Liver diseases including cirrhosis, fibrosis, hepatitis, and steatosis (excessive fatty deposits)

Alcohol and Immune System Response

In order for a COVID-19 infection to be cured, the body’s immune system must be able to build up antibodies. This is why many people choose to be vaccinated and receive booster shots for COVID. Vaccinations prepare the body to fight the infection by creating vital antibodies. Even if you have had COVID, vaccination can help keep it from recurring.

While those who do not have a substance use disorder may safely drink in moderation in the weeks following a COVID infection, there is still need for caution. Since alcohol weakens the immune response, it is not advisable to drink alcohol immediately before or after your COVID vaccination.

What Does the Science Say About COVID Vaccines and Alcohol?

While there are few formal studies on the effects of alcohol on the COVID vaccine’s effectiveness, there are several factors you should consider. First, it is well established that binge drinking and chronic alcohol use weaken the immune response. Drinking habits such as these may therefore reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and boosters. However, the scientific consensus is that moderate alcohol intake is not likely to reduce the effectiveness of the COVID or other vaccines.

What Do Scientists Mean by “Moderate Intake” of Alcohol?

The National Institutes of Health define moderate alcohol intake as no more than two “standard drinks” per day for men and one per day for women. The NIH defines a standard drink as 14 grams or less of pure alcohol, which amounts to:

• 12 ounces of regular beer, which contains about 5% of alcohol (or 10 proof)
• Roughly 14 ounces of light beer, which contains roughly 4.2% alcohol (or 8-9 proof)
• 8-9 ounces of malt liquor, which contains about 7% alcohol (or 14 proof)
• 5 ounces of table wine, which contains around 12% alcohol (or 24 proof)
• 3-4 ounces of fortified wines like port, vermouth, sherry, or marsala, which amounts to 16-18% alcohol (32-36 proof)
• 1.5 ounces (typically one shot) of spirits like brandy and cognac (also called a “hard liquor”), which contain around 40% alcohol (or 80 proof)
• 1.5 ounces of a distilled spirit (also called a “hard liquor”), which also amounts to about 40% alcohol (or 80 proof)

When consuming alcohol of any kind, it is important to know what constitutes a standard drink. Checking the proof of the alcohol then dividing that number in half will give you the approximate percentage of alcohol in the drink. Consuming more than two standard drinks per day can lead to the health problems listed above in the section on alcohol’s effects.

Most experts also recommend against drinking liquors known as rectified spirits (which are also referred to as grain alcohol, neutral spirits, or denatured spirits). These can contain up to 95% alcohol (or 190 proof).

What Precautions Can You Take When It Comes to Alcohol and Vaccines?

There are many steps you can take to protect yourself and ensure that your vaccine reaches its maximum effectiveness. Interestingly, some animal studies have shown that moderate consumption of alcohol (two or fewer standard drinks for men or one standard drink for women) may actually reduce inflammation and even boost the immune system. However, this is a very fine line to tread. Studies such as these do not yet include human subjects. It is best to drink moderately after a vaccination, if at all.

Some additional precautions to consider are:

• Avoid drinking alcohol if you have any side effects or an allergic reaction to the COVID vaccine.
• Avoid drinking alcohol in the three-week period between your first and second vaccine doses (if you are getting the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine).
• Wait two to three days after your second vaccine dose (or single dose if you are getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) before you consume alcohol.

It is also important to consider prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications when it comes to the COVID vaccine and alcohol use. The World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) both recommend against taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as acetaminophen (brand name: Tylenol), acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) on the day of your vaccination.

If you experience mild to moderate adverse reactions or side effects, your doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory painkiller. This is considered both safe and advisable. However, both the WHO and CDC recommend against consuming alcohol with certain nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), chiefly ibuprofen and naproxen. This is because these are metabolized by the liver. When combined with these drugs, alcohol consumption can lead to acute liver damage or liver toxicity. However, kidney-metabolized acetaminophen and aspirin are generally safe to take when consuming alcohol. If you do not drink at all, the NSAIDs in general are safe to take one to two days after vaccination.

When Does Moderation Become Dependence?

While moderate consumption may have some health benefits, it is important to be vigilant against dependent behaviors and misuse of alcohol. The more time spent drinking with high blood alcohol concentrations (BACs), the more likely that you may develop a tolerance to alcohol. As a result, the more you drink, the more alcohol it will take to experience the desired effects.

If you do not periodically take a break from drinking (even if you are limiting yourself to two standard drinks a day), the chances of increased alcohol tolerance and even dependence rise. If you are concerned about your alcohol consumption, ask yourself some honest questions while remembering that help is always available.

The following questions are drawn in part from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA’s) “CAGE” screening test, as well as sources from the NIH and CDC. However, you do not need a clinician to ask or answer these questions. All it takes is a little self-reflection.

• Do you drink more than one standard drink (if you are a woman) or two standard drinks (if you are a man) per day? Do you do so often?
• Do you drink every day or over long periods of time, such as weeks or months?
• Has your consumption negatively affected your personal relationships, work, or other commitments?
• Have you ever felt you should reduce your drinking (either the frequency or amount)? Have you tried to reduce your drinking and been unable to?
• Have people criticized you for your drinking or behavior when drinking? Did this criticism annoy or anger you?
• Has your drinking ever led to feelings of guilt, remorse, or embarrassment?
• Have you ever started drinking in the morning as a hangover cure or to calm yourself?
• Has drinking become a “solution” to problems like interpersonal conflict, depression, anxiety, stress, or sadness?
• Have you ever had a drink at work, while driving, or during events in which you are supervising children?
• Do you look forward to drinking to the point that it outweighs your enjoyment of family gatherings, hobbies, or other treasured activities?
• Have you ever felt the need to hide your drinking habits from others?

Regarding the COVID vaccine, you should ask yourself if you felt the need to drink either before or immediately after your shot. If so, this could be a sign of alcohol dependence, which is one of the first stages of a substance use disorder.

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you should consider seeking help. Luckily, that help is only a phone call away, and many resources are available nearly anywhere in the United States. There are also people in your life who care about you, and you can turn to them for emotional support, resources, advice, and encouragement.

What If You Need Help With Your Drinking?

If alcohol consumption is consuming you, if you feel you are drinking too much, or if your alcohol use is harming your health or quality of life, please consider getting help. There is no reason to despair, no matter the impact alcohol has had on your life. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has a national hotline that will help determine what steps to take while pointing you to local resources such as counselors, outpatient treatment facilities, and inpatient rehab. Their number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Their hotline is operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. What you speak about when you call is entirely confidential. Many other hotlines also offer texting. No insurance is required.

Help is also available online. Websites like are there to help you locate resources in your area. This site is part of the federal government and does not require any payment or insurance. You will have the resources at your disposal whenever you are ready.

You can also speak with your primary care provider. They will have resources and options available within your insurance network, should you choose to enter inpatient or outpatient rehab. They should also be able to recommend treatment options that limit your exposure to COVID (whether you are vaccinated yet or not). Another alternative is to turn to a friend who has also struggled. They may point you to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which has meetings every day and all over the country.

Finally, there are many rehabilitation centers all over the U.S. that provide holistic treatment options. Facilities like BlueCrest Recovery Center are there for you day and night. There is no shortage of resources, and they are only a phone call away. If alcohol has taken over your life, you can begin reclaiming it today with a single call.

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