A clinician holding a hypodermic needle in their outstretched hands, as if about to administer it.

It is safe to have the COVID-19 vaccine while taking antibiotics

Emma Pickup Coronavirus COVID-19

Antibiotic Research UK’s vital work providing support to people who have antibiotic-resistant infections has made it clear that better patient advice about vaccinations is urgently needed. 

Our Patient Support Service is reassuring 10+ people per day (by telephone or email) that it is safe to have a COVID-19 vaccine while taking antibiotics. Alarmingly, we have heard from a small number of people that they were refused the vaccine on the grounds that they are currently taking antibiotics. Please know that is is safe to have a COVID-19 vaccine while taking antibiotics.

What the current guidance says

None of the Patient Information documents for the vaccines state that they cannot be given to people on antibiotics. These documents set out every detail relating to the treatment, so would include any and all known risks or restrictions. 

Just to be sure, we contacted the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and received confirmation that “Antibiotics are not a contraindication to COVID-19 vaccination per se” (a contraindication is a reason to withhold a certain medicine). The MHRA went on to say that you must not receive the vaccine if you currently have a bad fever or ‘febrile’ illness. Febrile illness includes the rapid onset of headaches, chills or muscle and joint pains. A cold or low-grade fever are not reasons to postpone getting the vaccine.

What do we want to see?

It is clear that the issue now needs to be clarified by official guidance. It must clearly state the two treatments (vaccines and antibiotics) do not interfere with each other or pose a risk. This guidance needs to reach every healthcare professional administering the vaccine.

Professor Colin Garner said, “As the UK’s only charity focussing on antibiotics and antibiotic resistance, we are looking to the UK health authorities to provide clear advice to patients who are on antibiotics. It is vital that they receive a COVID vaccine if they are eligible.”

Arlene Brailey, Patient Support Officer, said, “At a time when we are all much more anxious about our health, it is worrying to think that some people are facing this additional confusion. Taking antibiotics does not preclude you from being vaccinated unless you have a high fever. If you have been refused a vaccine due to taking antibiotics and would like someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You are not alone.”

How the COVID-19 vaccines work

COVID-19 vaccines trigger the body’s immune system response and help it to recognise and attack the coronavirus. Antibiotics, however, are used to treat bacterial infections and have no effect on the virus or your immune response to the vaccine. 

You can discuss vaccine concerns with the health professional administering your vaccine.

Find out more

If you would like to learn, visit our information about antibiotics and the COVID-19 vaccine. You can also read the vaccine patient information guides: