Can taking Ibuprofen, OTC pain relievers reduce covid vaccine effectiveness?

With the disclaimer that you need to talk to your doctor before taking any kind of medication, the short answer is that it’s okay to take over-the-counter pain relievers after being vaccinated. The advice has been mixed on whether it’s fine to take them before your shot.

Some people, on advice from their doctors in anticipation of a painful procedure, take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, Excedrin) before their appointment. The idea is that you can reduce the pain of the procedure and get a jump start on the post-procedure pain if you take over-the-counter medications in advance.

But there’s concern that taking medication in the hours leading up to your shot might interfere with the vaccine itself. The vaccine is designed to trigger your immune system to respond to the virus. Your system needs to learn what the virus looks like, and produce antibodies to attack it. Some experts have said that taking these OTC painkillers could reduce your immune system’s response — but mainly, they don’t have clear data so they recommend against taking them preemptively.

For example: “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,” Simone Wildes, an infectious disease specialist at South Shore Medical Center in Massachusetts, told ABC.

But a pre-pandemic survey of studies that looked at the effect in children (with other vaccines) showed that it was not significant. The authors asked a simple question — does taking OTC painkillers before vaccination reduce the efficacy in children? Their answer was no.

The best guide we have found for what to expect after you get the vaccine, is this CDC brochure. In it, the agency says, “If you have pain or discomfort, talk to your doctor about taking an over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.”

If you’re particularly concerned about pre-dosing (maybe you have chronic pain that requires a daily dose of one of these medications), you should contact your doctor for advice.

This question was initially answered in our Coronavirus Updates newsletter, where all stories are free to read. Sign up to receive it.

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