How alcohol may affect your response to the Covid vaccine

The newest conversation in the efforts to get the UK vaccinated is a debate around whether alcohol consumption could affect people’s responses to the Covid-19 vaccine.

Alcohol has been found to suppress the immune system. As a result, expert guidance on avoiding alcohol before and after the vaccine, and for how long, has been varied.

Last month, health official for Russia, Anna Popova, stated that people should not drink two weeks before their first vaccine injection and then should continue this for another six weeks after their jab to ensure that there has been a strong immune response.

However, the UK advice has been a lot less severe. “There’s no evidence that, if you have one beer or a glass of wine a couple days after you get your vaccine, that’s going to interfere with your immune response or protection following the vaccine,” William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins University, told Insider.

While one drink is unlikley to interfere with your immune response to the vaccine, a heavy drinking session before having the vaccine is not advisable.

In the BBC 1 programme The Truth About… Boosting Your Immune System, which aired last week, it was found that enjoying three drinks prior to having the vaccine can lower levels of lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that fight infection, by up to 50%.

Vaccine efficacy is reliant on your immune system learning to respond to a model intruder, so you do not want it operating at half-capacity when you introduce it to the Covid-19 vaccine.

Studies have also found that alcohol can alter the make-up of the gut that helps stop viruses getting through. Moreover, research has found that binge drinking can deplete the ability of certain white cells to fight infections.

‘Binge’ drinking is defined as four or more drinks on one occasion for women and five or more for men.

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