It’s possible that taking a painkiller before getting a vaccine will result in a “decrease in antibody response,” explained Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Although the odds of a diminished immune response aren’t really known, Poland said it’s better to suffer the side effects than take the chance of making the vaccine less effective.
“After receiving the vaccine, if one develops symptoms that they feel they want to treat, it’s fine, but ideally not before,” he said. “Now, that’s a recommendation by CDC, out of an abundance of caution.”
There are exceptions, however: People who usually take pain relievers, such as migraine sufferers, should of course take their medication, he added.
“Go ahead and take it rather than end up with a full-blown migraine and end up in the ER having to get much more intensive or expensive therapy,” Poland said.
He also noted that the aftereffects of the vaccine can differ between the two doses, with the effects after the second dose typically being worse.
“I’ll tell you after my first dose, I had a little bit of a sore arm. After the second dose, I had a moderately severe sore arm, and I had four hours of shaking, chills with a 101-degree fever along with fatigue, headache and ringing in my ears. I took one dose of Tylenol, went to bed, woke up the next morning and was 80% to 90% better, and within that half-day, back to normal,” Poland said.
These side effects are caused as the body’s immune system revs up to fight the invader, which is just what’s needed to produce the antibodies to blunt the virus.
“Let your immune system do its job,” Offit said. “The second dose was pretty rough. I had fatigue and fever, but I handled it by whining. Whining was my way of handling it.”
For more on the COVID-19 vaccines, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCES: Gregory Poland, MD, director, Vaccine Research Group, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.; Paul Offit, MD, director, Vaccine Education Center, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, member, U.S. Food and Drug Administration Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee