So you got the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot and now you'd like to have a celebratory drink or two. But will that hinder your body's immune response? Here we dig into the science to find the answer.
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Covid vaccine bottle next to a cocktail with a plus sign then another bottle
Credit: Getty Images / Yevgen Romanenko / Jonathan Kantor

So you got the COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot and now you'd like to have a celebratory drink or two. But will that hinder your body's immune response?

It's possible. Though it depends on how much alcohol you drink, and how often you drink it.

There's some solid research that shows chronic, heavy alcohol use will impact your immune system response and lower your immunity. And other research has shown that even just a single episode of binge drinking in otherwise-healthy individuals can hinder your immune system.

Let's get into the weeds for a minute because it's kind of interesting (borderline horrifying) to learn what happens in your body. A handful of studies have looked at the short-term effects of a single bout of binge drinking. One study found that binge drinking increases gut permeability, meaning that toxins, bacteria and other "things" in your gastrointestinal tract that aren't supposed to get through your gut wall can actually leak through. This can fuel a state of low-grade chronic inflammation. Then, another study found that a night of binge drinking boosted the circulation of some pro-inflammatory compounds.

But the research on moderate drinking (you know, how we're all supposed to be drinking …) and your immune system shows it to be fairly benign. Remember, moderate drinking for women is one drink a day and for men it's two drinks a day. In fact, a study published in November 2020 looked at moderate drinking and its impact on the immune system. Researchers gave healthy non-chronic drinking adults a moderate dose of alcohol. The researchers aimed for a breath alcohol level of around 0.07 and found that their immune systems didn't change all that significantly.

There's a small bit of research, however, that is discouraging. Although it's limited, the science suggests alcohol may impact women's immune systems more than men's. One study explained it like so: chronic or acute alcohol consumption depresses estrogen, and in depressing estrogen levels, females may lose the immune system boost that estrogen typically gives them.

So, knowing all of this this, is it OK to have a drink (alcoholic, that is) after your COVID vaccine or booster shot?

Can You Drink Alcohol After the COVID Vaccine or Booster Shot?

"There is no reason you cannot drink alcohol after your vaccine or booster," says Starr Steinhilber, M.D., M.P.H., an internal medicine physician and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine. "Heavy chronic alcohol use negatively impacts your immune system, but light occasional use does not."

Steinhilber also said there isn't any reason you couldn't have a drink before you get your COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot. But again, she is referring to light or moderate occasional use, not chronic or heavy drinking.

We're all familiar with the potential short-term side effects of the vaccine or booster. If you want or need to take a pain reliever to help manage your side effects, be mindful of which type of medicine you take. "If you need to take acetaminophen (Tylenol) after your vaccine due to post-vaccination symptoms, you would want to limit your alcohol use. Taken together, acetaminophen/Tylenol and alcohol can cause liver injury," says Steinhilber. "The same does not happen with ibuprofen (Advil) and alcohol."

One final word: remember that alcoholic drinks on their own contribute little to no nutritional value. They're purely calories, nothing more—aka "empty" calories.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change quickly; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDCWHO and their local public health department as resources.