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Taking some pills such as Tylenol or Advil may have a blunting effect on a person’s immune system if they are taken around the same time as a person receives a COVID-19 vaccination, experts say. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Why it might be best to avoid painkillers as a precaution before your COVID-19 vaccine

Authorities don’t recommend pills like Tylenol and Advil near time of vaccination

Amina Zafar · CBC News · Posted: Feb 15, 2021

[Excerpt] Billions of people worldwide will receive vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and some will temporarily feel a sore arm, fever or muscle aches. But reaching for some common painkillers could blunt the effect of the vaccine, experts say.

Mahyar Etminan, an associate professor of ophthalmology, pharmacology and medicine at the University of British Columbia, looked at data on taking medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) before or close to the time of vaccination.

“Given that a lot of people would probably resort to using these drugs once they’re vaccinated, if they still have aches and pains, I thought to put the data into perspective,” said Etminan, who has a background in pharmacy, pharmacology and epidemiology. 

The jury is out on what happens to a person’s immune system after a COVID-19 vaccine if the person has taken those medications. But based on research on other vaccines like for the flu, there may be a blunting effect on immune response from the pills.

“If you tell people not to take them and they don’t like the side-effects they’re experiencing, that may lead to non-compliance with the second dose,” Etminan said. “I think it is an important sort of question to look at scientifically and also to tell patients.”

Why might fever-reducing meds interfere with our immune response after vaccination?

It has to do with what’s happening when our temperature rises to fight off an infection.

Dr. Sharon Evans, a professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, N.Y., works on training the immune system to attack cancer. She became interested in fever because it is such a common response across animals that walk or fly, even cold-blooded ones.

Before the pandemic, Evans and her colleagues wrote a review on how fever generally helps to reduce the severity and length of illness.

Evans called fever “incredible” for its ability to boost all the components needed for a protective immune response.

Fever “literally mobilizes the cells, it moves them in the body into the right place at the right time,” Evans said.

There’s also good evidence that inflammation, even without fever, can boost immune responses, she said.

Fever pills generally not recommended before vaccines

In a preprint to be published in the journal CHEST, Etimanan and his colleagues noted that a randomized trial looking at infants given acetaminophen immediately following vaccination showed lowered antibody levels compared with other infants who had not been given acetaminophen.

Another study in adults did not find their antibody levels fell after being vaccinated and taking acetaminophen. Immune responses can differ between children and adults.

To read more, click on: Why it might be best to avoid painkillers as a precaution before your COVID-19 vaccine