From alcohol to virus shedding, six dos and don'ts after Covid-19 inoculation

Vaccinated people have almost no immunity for the first few weeks – and must take care not to spread the virus even in the long term

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With Covid-19 vaccination campaigns under way around the globe, people who receive an inoculation may wish to minimise actions that may compromise their ability to develop immunity.

Here, we discuss key dos and don’ts linked to the Covid-19 vaccine.

Do not drink alcohol to excess – or at all

Drinking alcohol at about the time of a vaccination is not typically considered a significant danger, but many medical authorities counsel caution nonetheless.

In the UAE, people attending vaccine centres are urged not to drink alcohol for four days after their first and second shots. Some medics advise seven days.

After having the vaccine, the first thing to know is that you are not protected at all for the first couple of weeks

Last month, Dr Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya National Centre of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, where the Sputnik V vaccine was developed, recommended people "refrain from alcohol for three days after each injection, which applies to all vaccines".

This advice stems from alcohol’s ability to suppress the immune system, particularly in heavy drinkers, so there are concerns that protection against coronavirus infection might be weaker.

Advice concerning alcohol and the Covid-19 vaccine varies and in some countries vaccine recipients are not advised against drinking.

Do not mix certain medical treatments with vaccination

Vaccines should not be given while you are receiving certain types of medical treatment, so those who may be affected should seek medical advice.

For example, a rheumatoid arthritis treatment called rituximab acts as an immunosuppressant and may make vaccines less effective.

Before being vaccinated people should mention any immunosuppressants or other medications they are taking. It is also advised to highlight other vaccines already taken, or due to be taken.

While there are instances when vaccination and the taking of medication should be spread apart, people taking immunosuppressants are highly vulnerable to the coronavirus and so are considered a priority for inoculation.

Medical experts say major surgery and coronavirus vaccination should not happen within a week of one another, because both can cause fever.

Do not become relaxed about the risks of spreading Covid-19

People are advised to wash their hands regularly, practise physical distancing, wear a mask and take other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus even after being vaccinated.

There are several reasons for this.

"After having the vaccine, the first thing to know is that you are not protected at all for the first couple of weeks," said Prof Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases specialist and professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia in the UK.

No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, so even people who have had both doses of one of the vaccines may still be at risk of becoming ill.

Prof Hunter said it was possible that vaccinated people may become infected and pass on the virus even if they are protected from serious illness themselves.

“At the moment it’s difficult to know how much of a risk there is, but it’s still a risk,” he said.

UAE to start making Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine

UAE to start making Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine

Do get vaccinated, even if you have had coronavirus

People who have had a previous coronavirus infection may be less likely to become ill from Covid-19 again (because they have developed immunity), but they should still be vaccinated.

Dr Chris Smith, a clinical lecturer in virology at the University of Cambridge, said there were no contraindications – reasons to withhold a medical treatment because it may cause harm – linked to the vaccine for people who previously had the virus.

“The only thing it will do is remind your immune system,” he said. “Definitely, if you get called in for a vaccine, you should get it.”

He said there was a risk that any previous positive Covid-19 test result could have been inaccurate.

People who received a false positive result would have not developed immunity to the virus.

People should also ensure they have both doses of whichever vaccine they receive, because the second dose is likely to strengthen their immunity and ensure it lasts longer.

In the UAE, people who have had Covid-19 must wait a month after recovering before taking an antibody test.

If they still have immunity against the virus, they do not need to be immunised again.

Do outline conditions and medication before receiving a shot

Coronavirus vaccines were shown in large-scale clinical trials to be safe and effective, and the risk of significant side effects is minimal.

Vaccination is considered particularly important for people with serious medical conditions, because they may be more vulnerable should they become infected.

But people who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccines in the past should mention this before getting a coronavirus shot. In some countries, this may affect which vaccine is given.

The UK government said people should also mention if they have a weakened immune system or are on medication that weakens their immune system. This is also the case if they bruise easily, have a bleeding problem or take medicine that affects blood clotting.

In some cases doctors may recommend certain medications are not taken around the same time as a vaccine.

Anyone with a high fever and serious illness should point this out too.

Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant, or attempting to become pregnant, should discuss this with a healthcare worker before vaccination. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said women could continue to try to become pregnant after being vaccinated. But in the UAE, medics advise waiting three months after the second shot before trying to conceive.

Do seek help if you develop side effects

Advice from the British government, for example, is that people can carry on with normal activities after being vaccinated – if they feel fine.

People who receive a shot are advised to remain at the vaccination centre for a short time – typically about 15 minutes – in case they suffer an extreme allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock.

“If you’re at the vaccination centre when it happens, it’s easier to deal with,” Prof Hunter said.

Coronavirus vaccines have little or no effect on people’s ability to drive or operate machinery – unless they develop side effects.

Anyone who becomes tired or feels unwell should rest and not operate machinery or get behind the wheel.

While a two or three-day period of feeling slightly feverish after vaccination is not unusual, UK officials said a high temperature is rarer, so anyone who has one may have an infection, possibly the coronavirus, and should seek medical advice.