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January 30, 2021

Getting the COVID vaccine? Don't take painkillers before, experts say

Over the counter pain relievers could dull the vaccine's effectiveness

Prevention COVID-19
COVID vaccines painkiller Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat

Experts say that taking over the counter pain killers before getting the coronavirus vaccine could reduce its effectiveness.

As COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out across the country, many people are cautious of the shot's side effects. 

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna cited minor side effects to their coronavirus vaccines that largely included pain and swelling at the injection site, as well as fever, chills, tiredness, muscle aches and headaches. 

To prevent these effects, some people have taken to ibuprofen and acetaminophen to dull those symptoms before rolling up their sleeves. However, experts warn that medications like Advil, Tylenol and Motrin could actually dull the vaccine's effectiveness, ABC News reported.

“We do not recommend premedication with ibuprofen or Tylenol before COVID-19 vaccines due to the lack of data on how it impacts the vaccine-induced antibody responses,” Dr. Simone Wildes, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Medical Center and a member of Massachusetts’ COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Group, told ABC News.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization also caution the use of painkillers before getting the shot.

Pain relievers could prevent parts of the immune system from working, thus slowing down the immune response. The vaccine causes an immune response from the body, which is where side effects come from. 

The current theory is if the body is dulling its own immune response through the use of painkillers, the ability for the body to build immunity to the virus will be reduced. 

In 2016, Duke University conducted a study on children who took pain relievers before their vaccinations and found they had fewer antibodies than children who did not take pain killers before hand — though their antibody levels still protected them, despite the lower numbers. 

However, Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told ABC news that people already taking painkillers for another medical condition should continue taking them. Stopping routine medication could cause unintended problems and be more harmful than the vaccine's potential reduced effectiveness.

Experts also say patients should monitor themselves for side effects to the vaccine, and pain relievers could cloud those responses.

The vaccine roll out has been slow across the country, and in Philadelphia, experts say it would take 12 months to inoculate everyone at the current pace. Residents can sign up to be notified once they are eligible for the shot.

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