Is it okay to drink alcohol after getting vaccinated? Doctors say it depends how much

NOW: Is it okay to drink alcohol after getting vaccinated? Doctors say it depends how much

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) - Some people may be celebrating after getting their COVID-19 vaccine, maybe even throwing back a few cold ones, but can alcohol affect how well the vaccine protects you from the virus?

A study published in the National Institutes of Health Library of Medicine shows heavy drinking does make you more prone to viral infections, because it damages your immune system.

“The vaccine itself is still going to try to do its thing, but if you don’t have a robust immune system to make those antibodies and it gets shut down a little bit by alcohol, then that’s where the problem comes into play,” said Dr. William Hartman, principal investigator for UW Health’s AstraZeneca clinical trial.

Dr. William Hartman says a night of celebration or moderate drinking after the vaccine is fine. What’s more concerning is when you drink heavily over a period of time after the shot, because it takes weeks for your body to build up enough antibodies to fight COVID-19.

“Heavy drinking over time, especially in those first two weeks, is something that we should probably avoid,” he adds.

He says it’s important to make the distinction between moderate and heavy drinking. The United Health Foundation defines binge drinking as four or more drinks in women and five or more in men in one occasion. In the 2020 America’s Health Rankings report, the foundation discovered Wisconsin was the least healthy state in the country when it comes to excessive drinking, with nearly 24-percent of people reporting they binge or drink chronically.

“As soon as you go into heavy drinking there’s always a chance that it can suppress your immune system to the point where the vaccine isn’t going to work as effectively as it otherwise would,” Dr. Hartman says.

Dr. Hartman says people have to be conscious of alcohol intake after vaccinations as the community tries to reach herd immunity, the World Health Organization pushing for increased and successful vaccinations in order to end the pandemic.

The more of us who get vaccinated, the more we’re going to stop the transmission of the virus and that’s incredibly important to ensure that we’re stopping disease and mortality associated with COVID-19,” said Anil Soni, CEO of the World Health Organization Foundation.

“So you do have to keep your immune system as healthy as possible during this period of time,” Dr. Hartman says.

Dr. Hartman says people should use their best judgement when it comes to drinking, adding for a person who does not drink regularly—a few beers may be considered heavy drinking.

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