Vaccine Side Effects: Do Addiction Medications Cause Issues?

vaccine efficacy

Vaccinations are a hot topic of discussion these days. Health care breakthroughs are allowing us to feel like life is starting to go back to normal, thanks to vaccinations. However, we still have questions, like, Are there vaccine side effects? How long do the vaccines work for? Does drug addiction play a role in vaccine side effects?

How long do the vaccines work for? What are the long-term effects? What is the vaccine efficacy against mutations? Does drug addiction play a role in vaccinations? 

Studies show that some prescription drug medications may generally affect vaccine efficacy.  What does it mean to your health, and should it worry you? What about the COVID-19 vaccines? 

Find out more here. 


Vaccine Side Effects vs. Vaccine Efficacy

Vaccine efficacy is the number the percentage that shows how effective at preventing symptoms the vaccine is. The likelihood of developing a disease in a vaccinated group, relative to an unvaccinated group. 

For instance, If a vaccine you used has 90% efficacy, it means:

  • The number of infections in the vaccinated group is about 10% of that in the unvaccinated group.
  • You are 90% less likely to catch an infection than your friend who has not yet received the vaccine. 


How do Vaccines Work?

Vaccines help trigger an immune response in the body. Most vaccines do so by exposing your immune system to weakened or inactive parts of bacteria or viruses (antigen). 

COVID mRNA vaccines work differently though. The COVID-19 vaccines typically contain genetic instructions (mRNA) for making a viral protein that can fight back against infection. Once inside the body, our cells use these instructions to complete the protein. 

Our immune cells recognize these “foreign” protein molecules and produce antibodies to neutralize them. The viral protein subsequently gets degraded in the body. 

On future exposure to that specific virus, the antibodies help you avoid catching the infection. 



Vaccines Help Reach Herd Immunity

Herd immunity, or population immunity, occurs when a majority of the population gets infected. When this happens, the infection stops spreading or only affects only a few people in a specific region (endemic). 

Unfortunately, this approach will likely cause millions of COVID-19-related deaths; a safer way is to vaccinate at least 70% of the population. Yet, this is not a magic number. Because COVID-19 is a new infection, no one precisely knows when herd immunity will occur. 


COVID-19 Vaccines in the United States

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the following COVID-19 vaccines for emergency use. (Remember, emergency use authorization [EUA] is not complete approval.) 

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

  • It is an mRNA vaccine 
  • Requires two shots three weeks apart
  • Vaccine efficacy: Over 96% (according to Pfizer) 


Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Also an mRNA vaccine 
  • Requires two shots 28 days apart
  • Vaccine efficacy: About 94% 


J&J Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine

  • Contains a harmless virus. Once inside the body, it triggers the production of specific proteins found in the COVID-19 virus 
  • Requires one shot
  • Vaccine efficacy: About 75%


Drug Use and COVID-19 Vaccination

If you or anyone you love uses drugs, and are concerned about whether they should get vaccinated, here is what health care experts and authorities say: 

  • People who use drugs, especially opioids, are more likely to experience adverse effects if they get COVID-19. Experts recommend prioritizing vaccination for such people. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccination for all people with addiction problems regardless of their current, or history of, drug use.


Possible COVID Vaccine Interactions with Medication

As of now, there are no verified or established covid vaccine interactions with medications. Notably, none of the vaccine manufactures have mentioned such interactions in their fact sheets submitted to the FDA. 

That being said, we have some historical data that suggest some possible interactions may be possible. For example: 

vaccine in front of the american flag

  • Previous studies have reported potential interactions between some antiseizure drugs and influenza vaccines. Examples of these drugs include carbamazepine and phenytoin. It raises a concern about whether similar interactions can occur with COVID-19 vaccines. 
  • According to some experts, certain antiseizure drugs used in alcohol withdrawal syndrome may interact with the COVID vaccine. However, gabapentin (used to treat alcohol dependence) does not appear to be affected by or affect the COVID vaccine.  


Using Medications with COVID-19 Vaccines: Things to Know

Most experts warn against the use of pain relievers before vaccination. However, we expect no adverse effects when using a pain reliever after immunization. 


Key Takeaways

  • Some medications may affect vaccine efficacy. Nonetheless, the effect appears to be insignificant. It should not keep you from getting vaccinated. 
  • The CDC recommends vaccination for all people with addiction problems regardless of their current or history of drug use. 
  • Experts do not recommend the use of pain relievers before vaccination. 
  • There are no adverse interactions between COVID-19 vaccines and some of the most frequently prescribed drugs in the U.S. 
  • Call your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about vaccine side effects with medications.


Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol after Getting the Covid Vaccine?

Most experts agree that moderate drinking will probably not affect vaccine efficacy. That said, heavy drinking can affect your liver function, which in turn may affect your immune response. Experts recommend you abstain from drinking alcohol.


Can I Smoke Marijuana after Getting the Covid Vaccine?

The way you consume marijuana might affect vaccine efficacy rather than marijuana itself. Experts recommend that you abstain from smoking marijuana. 


male nurse giving girl corona vaccine


Is it safe to get the Covid Vaccine?

Leading health authorities have given COVID-19 vaccines a green signal. It means these vaccines are safe; vaccines significantly reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. Some users may experience mild side effects, which are usually self-limited (such as soreness at the injection site). 


Covid Vaccinations and Rehab Treatment Centers

At Opus Health we’re currently offering in-person inpatient services, we follow all CDC guidelines and have our safety in mind. We stress the importance of getting vaccinated for all of our staff and client base. The safety of our clients and staff is our top priority, and we invite you to talk to a care coordinator to learn more about how we’re prioritizing safety. Don’t let Covid-19 stop you from getting sober and healthy.

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