Does Tramadol Affect The COVID-19 Vaccine?

In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses whether or not the opioid drug tramadol can affect how well the COVID-19 vaccine works.

Question

Will taking Tramadol affect the COVID-19 vaccine booster shot?

Asked by Ginny On May 11, 2022

Answered by
Medical Content Reviewed By HelloPharmacist Staff

Published May 12, 2022
Last updated May 12, 2022

Key points

  • There is no evidence to suggest that tramadol affects how well the various COVID-19 vaccines work.
  • Analgesics, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can be used after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine to help reduce vaccine-related side effects (such as pain, swelling, and fever). Tramadol is not recommended for this use.
  • Some data suggest that NSAIDs, like ibuprofen and naproxen, can affect our immune response to vaccines, but more studies are needed in this regard.
  • Tramadol is not an NSAID and has not been shown affect how well any vaccine works.

Hi there and thanks for reaching out!

There, unfortunately, is little evidence available regarding whether or not tramadol negatively affects the COVID-19 vaccine (or any vaccine for that matter).

Based on the mechanism of action of tramadol, there isn't much to suggest that it would affect the vaccine, but again, we just don't know definitively.

In general, it doesn't appear that any pain relievers negatively affect the COVID-19 vaccine in terms of how well it works, but there is some controversy surrounding a particular class of analgesics, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).

Some studies suggest drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen (both NSAIDs) may affect our immune response to vaccines. This is why some sources state that Tylenol (acetaminophen) is the drug of choice for vaccine-related side effects.

Nevertheless, tramadol is not an NSAID and does not have anti-inflammatory actions, so we wouldn't be concerned in this regard anyway.

CDC Recommendations

CDC Building Sign

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) does give some guidance on the use of pain relievers to deal with the side effects of COVID-19 vaccinations.

In regard to treating minor aches, pains, and fever due to the vaccine, they recommend:

Talk to a doctor about taking over-the-counter medicine, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin (only for people ages 18 years or older), or antihistamines for any pain and discomfort experienced after getting vaccinated. People can take these medications to relieve side effects after vaccination if they have no other medical reasons that prevent them from taking these medications normally. Ask your child’s healthcare provider for advice on using a non-aspirin pain reliever and other steps you can take at home to comfort your child after vaccination.
Centers for Disease Control

It should be noted that the CDC does not recommend taking any pain relievers (which would include tramadol) before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine with the intent to prevent vaccine-related side effects:

It is not recommended you take over-the-counter medicine (such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen) before vaccination for the purpose of trying to prevent vaccine-related side effects. It is not known how these medications might affect how well the vaccine works. If you take these medications regularly for other reasons, you should keep taking them before you get vaccinated. It is also not recommended to take antihistamines before getting a COVID-19 vaccine to try to prevent allergic reactions.
Centers for Disease Control

Tramadol And Vaccines

hand holding tramadol bottle

As stated in the opening of this answer, there is no data to suggest that tramadol affects the effectiveness of vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccine.

Unlike NSAIDs, which some studies suggest may affect our immune response to vaccines (although this is not definitively known), there is no such concern with tramadol.

If tramadol is something you take for an unrelated condition (e.g. chronic pain), it likely is perfectly safe to continue taking it unless otherwise directed by your doctor.

I wouldn't suggest using tramadol for COVID-19 vaccine-related side effects, however.

For one, tramadol is a controlled substance used to treat a variety of pain conditions, and it was likely prescribed to you for those conditions. It is not intended to be used for COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

Additionally, tramadol does not have anti-inflammatory effects and does not have antipyretic effects (i.e. fever-reducing effects) either.

So, if your question is purely around whether or not tramadol affects the COVID-19 vaccine, the answer is that it appears safe based on the information we have available.

If it's regarding whether or not tramadol helps COVID-19 vaccine side effects (e.g. pain, swelling, fever, etc...), it is not recommended to be used for this purpose.

Final Words

Thanks again for your question!

Reach back out anytime!

References

  • Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs Dampen the Cytokine and Antibody Response to SARS-CoV-2 Infection, ASM Journal
  • Possible Side Effects After Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC
  • Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine, CDC
  • NSAIDs and COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis, PubMed
  • Ultram Prescribing Information, AccessFDA
  • Does immunosuppressive property of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) reduce COVID-19 vaccine-induced systemic side effects?, PubMed
  • The plausible mechanisms of tramadol for treatment of COVID-19, PubMed

About the Pharmacist

Dr. Brian Staiger, PharmD

Dr. Brian has been practicing pharmacy for over 11 years and has wide-ranging experiences in many different areas of the profession. From retail, clinical and administrative responsibilities, he's your knowledgeable and go-to source for all your pharmacy and medication-related questions! Feel free to send him an email at Hello@HelloPharmacist.com! You can also connect with Dr. Brian Staiger on LinkedIn.

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