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Painkillers and corona vaccination: researchers express concerns – what does the RKI say?

In the case of unsightly vaccine reactions, painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol are an obvious choice. How do the RKI and other experts assess the effect on corona protection?

Update from Wednesday, May 5th, 2021, 8:24 am: “Can I take painkillers after the corona vaccination?” With the increasing number of vaccinated people in Germany, more and more people are asking themselves this question: body and mind can experience unsightly vaccination reactions or side effects for days burden. Not only the professional world is therefore eagerly awaiting a study that researchers from the University of British Columbia are currently working on ( see below, first report from March 16, 2021 ). This is intended to show how and whether the consumption of painkillers affects the immune defense that is created by the corona vaccination.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) writes that the data is still “insufficient” to be able to say with certainty how drugs such as paracetamol or ibuprofen are compatible with vaccines from Biontech, Moderna or AstraZeneca. Research is not available. The same applies to possible differences between the active ingredients or their dose. A “valid” assessment is not yet possible. In its statements, however, the RKI refers to the assessment of other experts who advise caution. The time of intake is therefore important.

It is known from studies on non-corona vaccines that prophylactic, i.e. taking painkillers before vaccination, is “not recommended” ( see below, first report from March 16, 2021 ). The situation is different if paracetamol & Co. is used after the vaccination . As of now, there is “no evidence that the administration of these drugs could significantly influence the success of the vaccination if undesirable side effects occur after vaccination,” writes the RKI. So there are no indications of a risk to vaccination protection. At the time that one should wait six to eight hours before taking the medication, as has proven advisable with other vaccines, no assessment is possible.

Corona vaccination: vaccination protection in danger – experts warn of risk

First report from Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 11.30 a.m .: Fever, body aches, the so-called Covid arm – a vaccination against the coronavirus can have unpleasant side effects, regardless of which vaccine was vaccinated. Reaching for a pain reliever such as ibuprofen or paracetamol to combat or even prevent such complaints is obvious. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) even suggested taking paracetamol for fever and pain after vaccination in an information sheet on vaccination (January 11, 2021). But as it now suggests, taking painkillers too early could impair vaccination protection.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver are currently investigating the question of whether painkillers should be taken against a vaccine reaction to the corona vaccination at all. Based on data on side effects and “given the availability of over-the-counter febrile drugs, it is expected that potentially millions around the world will use them to moderate acute systemic side effects associated with COVID-19 vaccination,” the researchers write in a form that soon to appear in the journal “Chest”.

Painkillers after the corona vaccination can reduce the effect

Why could that be problematic? Some studies – but not all, the researchers emphasize – indicate that pain relievers, if taken before or immediately after a vaccination, could reduce vaccination protection. Because they can suppress the natural vaccination reaction, which can be expressed, for example, by a fever. The health portal “aponet.de” writes, “A suppressed immune reaction could theoretically reduce the formation of antibodies and thus the effect of the vaccination.” This also applies not only to corona vaccinations, but also to vaccinations against other diseases.

A study from the specialist magazine “The Lancet” showed that taking paracetamol to prevent side effects when vaccinating a cohort of children reduces the antibody titre. A study from 2014 also shows for adults that administration of paracetamol at least six hours after vaccination had no influence on the immune response, while administration immediately after vaccination weakened it. Especially for the corona vaccines from Biontech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, however, it has not yet been investigated what effects preventive painkillers can have on immunization.

Astrazeneca and Co: No data on pain killers from vaccine manufacturers

A study on the AstraZeneca vaccine mentions that the prophylactic administration of paracetamol does not impair immunogenicity – i.e. the ability of the vaccine to trigger an immune reaction in the body. However, no data has been published, the researchers in Canada note. In addition, it is not certain whether the results can also be applied to vaccines of the mRNA type, such as Biontech and Moderna. AstraZeneca is a vector vaccine. No data on the use of febrile drugs had been published at Moderna, Biontech and Pfizer had merely mentioned that the use of febrile drugs rose with increasing dosage and number of doses. Nothing was disclosed about immunogenicity.

Regardless of the corona pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend not taking painkillers before or shortly after a vaccination. They could only be taken in the days after the vaccination to combat side effects. (Ines Alberti)

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