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Stop taking these OTC medicines before getting a coronavirus vaccine

January 14th, 2021 at 10:49 AM
Coronavirus vaccine
  • The US is continuing the race to administer the coronavirus vaccine to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
  • According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, as of Wednesday night, almost 11 million people in the US had been given a coronavirus vaccine since vaccinations began in the US in mid-December.
  • In terms of important information people need to know before being given the coronavirus vaccine, here are some OTC drugs to avoid before your vaccination.

At this stage of the COVID pandemic in the US, everything comes down to the coronavirus vaccine. How many people have been vaccinated, how many people still need to get it, how effective the vaccine is, how the incoming Biden administration will accelerate the vaccine distribution plans — this is the pivot upon which our escape from the pandemic rests, full stop.

As far as where things stand now, it’s important to know that some of the plans around the vaccinations are changing even now. The Trump administration on Tuesday, for example, announced that it would loosen up its coronavirus vaccine distribution protocol so that states get more doses. And while that’s a governmental-level change, there’s also more to learn about the vaccine at the individual level, too — such as which over-the-counter medicines that people probably should stop taking ahead of getting the vaccine, because it could make the vaccine less effective. So here’s what you need to know along those lines.

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The key details: Stop taking any ibuprofen and acetaminophen before getting your coronavirus vaccine. This is according to UCI Health, the academic health system in Orange County, California. In response to the question “Should I take Tylenol or Motrin before my vaccination?” the health system replied thus on a FAQ page:

“If you regularly take aspirin, acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) and ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil) for other medical conditions, continue to do so as directed by your physician or as needed. Otherwise, do not pre-medicate. Taking over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen before receiving a vaccine may reduce its ability to work and blunt your immune response to the vaccine.” After being vaccinated, however, the health system says to go right ahead and resume taking OTC medicines to help with any uncomfortable symptoms.

“You want the immune system to see the antigen (the vaccine) and respond to it,” BestRxforSavings founder Jason Reed told one health news outlet. “Doing so is how your immune system creates antibodies and cells that can kill the virus if seen again after getting the vaccine. Therefore, the concern is using these drugs prior to getting the vaccine would mute this immune response and possibly interfere with building the defense.”

There are some similarities between the coronavirus and influenza, and a 2015 study from the University of Rochester Medical Center took a look at how these two OTC drugs affected the body’s immune response to the flu. That study came to almost the same conclusion as outlined above — namely, that “it’s best to avoid common pain relievers” after getting a flu shot. “Unless your health care provider tells you otherwise, it’s best not to take pain relievers one or two days before the flu vaccine and for a week afterward,” said David J. Topham, Ph.D., a study author and professor in the Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology at URMC, in a summary of the study findings.

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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