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Don’t drink and jab: Indulging after vaccination can harm immune system

Wanting to celebrate after getting vaccinated is understandable but stick to moderate alcohol consumption, warn experts.

alert level 1 pubs

Image: Stock image via Unsplash

After President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the resumption of alcohol sales and under 35’s being able to get vaccinated from 1 September, it’s important to note that heavy consumption of alcohol after taking the vaccine isn’t advisable. On the other hand, moderate drinking is doable.

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The vaccination process has been somewhat of a painful wait for South Africans and with September being a little over a month away, young soon-to-be vaccinated South Africans need to understand the dangers of overconsuming alcohol.

Excessive drinking can stifle your immune system and reduce the amount of protection that the COVID vaccine can offer you.

Binge-drinking impacts immune system

Although there’s no extensive study on how alcohol consumption can affect the COVID-19 vaccine, binge drinking can definitely have a negative effect on your immune system.

Epidemiological studies have found that regular consumption of 3 or more drinks (>0.1g/Kg) a day is associated with significant organ damage, increased morbidity and mortality, and adverse birth outcomes. Chronic heavy drinking also increases susceptibility to both bacterial and viral infections, states a study by lhem Messaoudi, director of the Center for Virus Research at the University of California, Irvine.

This video by the BBC shows what even a single night of binge-drinking may do to your immune system:


After you get vaccinated, you can experience some mild side effects, which are signs that your body is building protection against the virus. It’s also normal to not experience any side effects.

According to the National Institute of Communal Diseases (NICD), the mild side effects that people may experience are:

Pain, swelling, or redness where the vaccine was injected, mild fever, chills, fatigue, headache as well as Muscle and joint aches.

Vaccine side-effects similar to hangover symptoms

If you consume too much alcohol after you get vaccinated, it won’t be easy to manage the symptoms mentioned above because of their similarities to hangover symptoms.

Ihem Messaoudi spoke to the New York Times about drinking alcohol after taking the vaccine. He pointed out that moderate drinking (no more than 2 drinks) shouldn’t cause a recently vaccinated person too much trouble.

If you are truly a moderate drinker, then there’s no risk of having a drink around the time of your vaccine. But be very cognizant of what moderate drinking really means. It’s dangerous to drink large amounts of alcohol because the effects on all biological systems, including the immune system, are pretty severe and they occur pretty quickly after you get out of that moderate zone, says Messaoudi to the New York Times.

Moderate consumption of alcohol

Russian microbiologist and developer of the Sputnik V vaccine, (not administered here in South Africa), Dr Alexander Gintsburg, pointed out last year that moderate drinking won’t be harmful and dismissed fake news of 42-day alcohol abstinence for people receiving the vaccine.

We’re not talking about a complete ban on alcohol, moderate consumption is allowed. We advise refraining from alcohol for three days after each injection, which applies to all vaccines, he said in a tweet.