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Should alcohol be avoided during a coronavirus vaccine?

Jon Super/AP/Shutterstock

Jon Super/AP/Shutterstock

Drinking alcohol after receiving a coronavirus vaccine can significantly dampen the immune response and potentially render the vaccine ineffective, according to a leading Russian scientist. “We strongly recommend abstaining from alcohol for three days after each injection,” said Alexander Gintsburg, head of the Gamaleya National Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, which is developing the Sputnik V vaccine. new scientist.

This warning does not only apply to the Sputnik V vaccine, but to all covid-19 vaccines and indeed to all other vaccines. “It’s pretty obvious,” he said.

Existing scientific literature on alcohol and the immune system shows that excess alcohol is an immunosuppressant, so people who drink heavily are more susceptible to infections. “Heavy drinkers have many problems and poor immune function is one of them,” says immunologist Eleanor Riley from the University of Edinburgh, UK.

In trials, around 10% of people do not become immune after receiving the Sputnik V vaccine and the figure is similar for other vaccines. The reasons are unknown. Whether alcohol could be a factor has not been investigated.

A 2012 study Swedish researchers found that low to moderate alcohol consumption slightly suppressed the inflammatory response to a bacterial pneumonia vaccine, but had no impact on the immune response. The researchers defined this level of alcohol consumption as an average consumption of less than 30 grams per day, or about the same as three vodkas.

Gintsburg said drinking 300 grams of vodka – about 12 UK measures, which contains a total of around 120 grams of alcohol – suppresses antibody production. But a glass of champagne would be OK, he said.

This week, Anna Popova, head of the Russian Federal Service for Monitoring Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor), triggered a controversy in Russia when she advised Russians to stop drinking alcohol two weeks before their first vaccine and for another three weeks after their second. There is a three-week interval between injections making a total of eight weeks on the wagon.

gintsburg said new scientist that was too strict. “Of course, we are not talking about a complete ban on alcohol during vaccination. It is simply a reasonable limitation of consumption until the body has formed its own immune response to the coronavirus infection,” he said. “It is important to understand that excessive alcohol consumption can significantly reduce immunity and therefore reduce the effectiveness of vaccination, or even render it insignificant. , this is true not only for Sputnik V, but also for any other vaccine.”

Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which funds the Sputnik V programme, said: “This applies to all vaccines, there is nothing special about the Sputnik vaccine that makes it more prone to Alcohol consumption”.

Some people may want to err on the side of caution, says Paul Klenerman of the University of Oxford. “There is no doubt that chronic alcohol excess has a significant impact on many aspects of immunity,” he says. “What is not clear is whether a small amount would have a significant effect on [real-life settings]. So it’s plausible and you could just be very careful and say avoid it. Different countries might end up giving different directions.

new scientist contacted a volunteer from the UK branch of the trial of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. There were no instructions to abstain from drinking alcohol at the time of the vaccination, the volunteer said.

A UK-based volunteer Clinical trial of a vaccine at Imperial College London also stated that there was no obligation to avoid alcohol. However, an information sheet given to trial participants says people with “current suspected or known addiction to alcohol or drugs” cannot participate in the study. He doesn’t say why.

Pfizer said there were no alcohol warnings given to people receiving the vaccine it developed with BioNTech. AstraZeneca, who signed an agreement to collaborate with the Sputnik V projectdid not respond to a request for information on alcohol and vaccination.

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