[co-author: Dan Meckley]
Photo by Terry Vlisidis on Unsplash
Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to participate in “Dry January”? Have you been able to refrain from drinking since January 1? Are you considering getting the COVID vaccine?
Health authorities around the world are advising people that plan on getting a COVID vaccine to abstain from drinking prior to and/or after getting the vaccine. United Kingdom health authorities advise abstaining for several days before and after. Some Russian health authorities advise not to drink for up to two months after getting the vaccine because of the time estimated for the Russian vaccine to develop an effective response. Interestingly, the Rhode Island Health Department specifically refuted the legitimacy of this Russian health advice.
In the United Kingdom, a recent experiment by an emergency medicine doctor claimed that three glasses of Prosecco reduced by half the number of white blood cells including lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that fight infections. There are two main types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells. These cells are responsible for determining the immune response to viruses or other foreign substances in the body. The worry is that alcohol suppresses the body’s immune system and may slow or diminish the development of antibodies that are intended to recognize and fight the virus.
Researchers have previously examined how alcohol use and abuse affects the immune response. Long-term and heavier consumption of alcohol lead to more adverse health effects in general. Other studies indicate certain types of alcohol in moderation may have benefits or have no effect at all. The implication would be that heavier and more frequent users of alcohol should dramatically reduce alcohol consumption prior to and after getting a COVID vaccine in order to give their immune systems the best chance of producing antibodies. There is however, no consensus that moderate alcohol use will negatively impact the effectiveness of a COVID vaccine. Remember, moderate use of alcohol is considered having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. It is up to you to choose to extend “Dry January” into February or later depending on when you can get a COVID vaccine.