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Should you avoid pain relievers, anesthesia for two years after COVID-19 vaccination?

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Claim: A viral WhatsApp message claims taking pain relievers or anesthesia after COVID-19 vaccination is dangerous and both should be avoided for two years.

The claim that diclofenac or anesthesia should be avoided after vaccination is false and misleading as our findings and WHO’s response shows this.

Full Text

Aches or pain are common side effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. Vaccination side effects show that the vaccine is teaching the immune system how to recognize and attack SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). To relieve this pain, some vaccinated persons turn to pain relievers or killers.

A recent viral WhatsApp message claims that pain relievers like diclofenac should be avoided for two years after taking COVID-19 vaccine.

According to this message, the adverse effects of the vaccine and pain relievers have been fatal, making reference to a doctor who allegedly killed his wife by injecting her with diclofenac after COVID-19 vaccination.

“PLS IF YOU HAVE BEEN VACCINATED FOR COVID 19 AVOID DICLOFENAC OR ANY ANAESTHESIA FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF THE VACCINE WITH THESE HAVE BEEN FATAL.”

Excerpt of the viral WhatsApp message.

Screenshot of the viral WhatsApp message.

Verification

Taking a close look at this claim, Dubawa noted this claim sounded and looked like the one fact-checked earlier in April, 2021.

While the April claim says taking Pain killers after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is dangerous and can lead to death, the recent claim says to avoid diclofenac and any other anesthesia if vaccinated. 

Both claims seem to be tied to the same story of a doctor who killed his wife by injecting her with a dose of Diclofenac after she had earlier received the COVID-19 vaccine. Dubawa’s earlier check however showed that the woman’s death was not vaccine related.

Dubawa conducted a keyword search on Anesthesia and pain relievers.

Anesthesia

Anesthesia are medicines used during tests and surgical operations to numb sensation in certain areas of the body or induce sleep to prevent pain and discomfort.

This search led to checks by Quint and India.com  discrediting the claim that getting anesthesia after vaccination is dangerous 

Pain relievers

Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are different pain medicines, with advantages and risks. 

Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others and each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever. Pain relievers go by many names; Analgesics, Narcotics, Painkillers, Pain medicine etc.

Types of pain relievers

There are different types of pain relievers but they can be classified into two types! Over-the-counter pain relievers and prescribed pain relievers.

Over-the-counter (OTC): These are pain medications available at stores for any adult to purchase. They include; Acetaminophen, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ( under which Ibuprofen and Diclofenac fall under), Combination drugs (contain both acetaminophen and aspirin, an NSAID), and Topical (cream, gel, spray or patch) that can be applied directly to the skin.

Prescription: These medications are only available with a prescription from a healthcare provider as they provide stronger pain relief. They treat severe or chronic pain. These include; Antidepressants, Anti-seizure medications, Muscle relaxers, Opioids, Steroids and Topical.

Pain relievers and vaccine, what you should know

A look at studies and reports show that the arguments around pain relievers and vaccines is on the possibility of pain relievers curbing the necessary immune system response necessary to fight the virus like this study shows not on any health danger

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in it’s recent report in June on how to relieve COVID-19 side effects warns against pain killers before vaccination but notes it can be taken afterwards with due consultation with your doctor.

Experience of vaccinated persons

Dubawa also reached out to persons who have been vaccinated in Nigeria to get their experience if any with pain relievers.

Mr Richard Akinwunmi, who has gotten his complete dose (two dose) of the Astrazeneca vaccine explained he took ibuprofen after his first dose and there was no adverse effect. 

“For my first dose, no pain until the night of that day. I experienced a heavy shoulder and muscle spasms so I took ibuprofen for 3 days and a lot of water.

For my Second dose, I started feeling feverish (malaria kind) almost immediately and I took a lot of water and paracetamol for 3 days.”

Excerpt of Mr Richard’s response.

Alhassan Bala on the other hand said he only took paracetamol.

“Maybe because I am the type of person that hates pills, I only took paracetamol after I started experiencing fever a few hours after the dose. The fever went away after about 24hours.”

Excerpt of Alhassan’s response. 

Just like Alhassan, Lateef Sanni also took paracetamol which he said was recommended by the health officials where he got his vaccine and he was fine afterwards.

“I only took paracetamol if that qualifies as a pain reliever. The doctors instructed that if I feel funny that I should use paracetamol. And that was what I did. Immediately I took it, the malaria-like symptoms I had disappeared.”

Excerpt of Mr Lateef’s response.

Expert opinion

Speaking to health officials, Dubawa gathered pain relievers can be taken after vaccination not before.

A medical officer, Lynda Effiong-Agim said it is not advisable to take pain relievers before vaccination but they can be taken afterwards as long as the person has no previous contraindication using NSAIDS.

“If the person previously had no contraindication to using NSAIDS then there is no issue because NSAIDS aren’t for everyone. However the NSAID is not to be taken in advance before vaccination, it is afterwards to help with pain, e.t.c.”

Excerpt of Dr Lynda’s comment.

Another health official, a gynaecologist, Dr Monday Idoko, at Garki hospital Abuja said the claim is not scientifically justifiable and if true maybe a coincidence.

On paracetamol which most of the vaccinated persons we spoke to said they took, he clarified it is also part of pain relievers.

“But the claims aren’t scientifically justifiable. It may be a coincidence. Diclofenac is an abused drug bought over the counter so if it were true, we would have had a lot of these cases.”

Excerpt of Dr Idoko’s comment.

Dubawa also reached out to the World Health Organisation (WHO) via email. The organisation responded saying there are no recommendations that diclofenac or anesthesia should be avoided for two years following vaccination.

The WHO added that pain killers may be used for injection site pain following vaccination, but generally paracetamol is what is recommended.

“Diclofenac is an anti-inflammatory drug, and not an anaesthetic agent. The oral preparation of diclofenac is used to reduce inflammation and pain. The injectable version of the drug is only recommended for severe pain, often post-operative pain, and given under close medical supervision.

Anaphylactic reactions have been reported following diclofenac, which from the news reports is felt to be the cause of death in the doctor in India.

“Pain killers may be used for injection site pain following vaccination, but generally paracetamol is what is recommended. There are no recommendations that diclofenac or anaesthesia should be avoided for 2 years following vaccination.”

Excerpt of WHO’s response 

Conclusion

The claim that diclofenac or anesthesia should be avoided after vaccination is false and misleading as our findings and WHO’s response shows this.

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