May 20, 2022

Panadol, paracetamol: New research on their impact on vaccines

New research that looked at the impact of taking painkillers like Pandaol after being vaccinated has made an unexpected discovery.

Taking paracetamol, ibuprofen or aspirin right after being bitten can reduce the body’s immune response to vaccinations, including for Covid-19, according to important new research.

The University of Sydney study found that taking these common painkillers immediately before or after vaccination could reduce their effectiveness.

Lead author Christina Abdel-Shaheed described the clinical review of more than 170 studies as the most important research she has undertaken in her 14-year career in pain examination.

“I never had a sense of the unintended immune impacts of these commonly used painkillers,” she said.

“In 14 years of studying pain, I’ve looked at multiple classes of drugs, (but) I didn’t know that until we undertook this review with some of the world’s top infectious disease experts.”

Australia’s health department advises people not to take paracetamol or ibuprofen before receiving a Covid vaccine.

However, it does indicate that painkillers can be taken to manage side effects afterwards.

Dr Abdel-Shaheed said a person should try to avoid taking painkillers unless they have uncomfortable symptoms such as a severe headache or fever.

“If it’s mild and manageable, it would seem the best way to go is to let the body do its job and trigger an immune response,” she said.

She said the results suggested the first hit of Covid was most important in trying to avoid taking drugs like Panadol or Nurofen.

“The results suggest that the primary vaccine is most important, there is less certainty around booster shots,” she said.

Dr Abdel-Shaheed said the clinical examination covered a variety of vaccines, including for flu and meningitis, and the results also raised questions about Covid.

“What some studies have shown is that paracetamol and ibuprofen can actually reduce the antibody response to vaccination,” she said.

“So if they’re taken within six to eight hours of getting the vaccine, there seems to be this reduced effect on the immune response to the vaccine.

“Clinical experience in these other settings also raises questions about the appropriateness of using these common drugs at the time of Covid vaccines.

“There are no specific studies in this area and there is probably a need for them.”

Research has also looked at morphine and found that it significantly suppresses key immune system cells and increases a person’s risk of infection.

This was particularly the case after cancer surgery.

“It is one of the most widely used analgesics in this setting anywhere in the world,” said Dr. Abdel-Shaheed.

“It can be given to people in these critical situations and we find that it can compromise their immune defenses against infections.

“It challenges us to consider potential alternative strategies that do not have these negative consequences.”

Another important discovery is that aspirin may be a treatment option for tuberculosis, which is a major problem in developing countries.