It’s a known fact that the COVID-19 vaccine can cause some people to experience flu-like symptoms, a sore arm or other side effects. To ward off such discomfort, you might be tempted to take a pain reliever prior to getting your shot.
However, experts say that is a mistake.
Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease expert and director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told AARP that taking an over-the-counter medicine such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine.
Poland is not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warns against taking such medications prior to vaccination.
Why the worry? Poland says some studies indicate a link between taking these medications prior to vaccination and a decreased immune system response. That could mean that your body will have a harder time both recognizing COVID-19 infection in the future and fighting it off if it occurs.
For its part, the CDC simply warns that “routine prophylactic administration of these medications for the purpose of preventing post-vaccination symptoms is not currently recommended” because it’s currently unknown how the practice affects vaccine-induced antibody responses.
However, both Poland and the CDC say it is fine to take such medications after you have received the vaccine if it helps ward off side effects such as fever or pain at the injection site.
Also, the evidence linking pre-vaccination medication use to a weakened immune response is not conclusive. So, if you take a pain reliever to combat something like intense arthritis pain, talk to your physician before receiving the vaccination, Poland says. In that case, it might make sense to take the medicine.
Currently, many pharmacies are stepping up to deliver COVID-19 vaccinations to people across the U.S. For more, check out “21 Pharmacy Chains Ready to Give COVID-19 Vaccines.”
For more about COVID-19, read “The Next 5 Groups Who Will Get the COVID-19 Vaccine.”