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? 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.

For example, one 2021 study in Antioxidants 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. This is why a 2017 study in Addiction Biology found that binge drinkers had an increase in 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 females is one drink a day and for males, two drinks a day, per the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. In fact, a 2020 study published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism 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.

Of note: Alcohol seems to affect females differently (or perhaps worse) than males. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), due to a female's biology and chemistry, more alcohol tends to be absorbed and it takes longer to metabolize. These effects place females at higher risk of long-term negative health consequences compared to males.

So, knowing all of this, is it OK to have an alcoholic beverage 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.

Like most vaccines, the COVID-19 shot can have potential short-term side effects, including fever, headache, fatigue and pain at the injection site, according to the CDC. 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."

Bottom Line

Remember that alcoholic drinks on their own contribute little to no nutritional value, and over-indulging in alcohol can result in several negative health consequences. With that said, if you choose to have a drink around the time of your COVID-19 shot, imbibe in moderation. And if you use pain relief to help ease the side effects of the injection, avoid combining acetaminophen and alcohol, as you could cause damage to your liver.

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.