Is it safe to get a tattoo after you get the vaccine?

tattoo covid vaccine
Photo via Jonny Kreidler/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
  • This story is regularly updated for relevance. Last updated: Aug. 3, 2021

As state and local municipalities fully reopen and more people receive their COVID-19 vaccines, tattoo artists are suddenly in high demand. Some shops continued working in limited capacity during the pandemic, but the current availability of vaccines is encouraging the previously hesitant to get inked.

As a result, some popular tattoo artists are now booking clients a year or more out, according to the Washington Post. And more people than ever are getting ink for their bodies.

Tattoo shops have been in a fortunate position during the pandemic, which has allowed them to adapt to enhanced COVID-19 safety precautions. Due to the nature of the job, tattoo artists are already extremely diligent about cleaning and sanitizing workspaces between clients to prevent cross-contamination.

Many shops added temperature checks and face coverings to their list of requirements, getting a tattoo after a full vaccination should present very minimal risk. Getting a tattoo is just as safe as visiting a salon or the dentist, particularly if people continue to mask up.

Some potential patrons are also wondering if getting a tattoo soon after a COVID vaccine can affect the vaccine’s efficacy. Should we be spacing out our vaccines and tattoos?

Dr. Michael Chang, professor of pediatric infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston, told Allure that “first and foremost, there are no contraindications to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shortly before or after getting a tattoo at this time.” Additionally, there is no recommended wait time between getting vaccinated and tattooed.

“Based on how the various vaccines work, whether mRNA or adenoviral vector-based, there isn’t any reason to think getting a tattoo would influence how well the vaccines work,” Chang said. He also noted his belief that there is no reason to avoid getting the vaccine through the site of a previous tattoo.

Despite the lack of scientific reasons to space out your vaccine and tattoo, you may still want to consider postponing your tattoo if it will be near your injection site. Like the vaccine, tattoos can cause arm soreness, pain, and redness, because, as Mic wrote, “A tattoo is essentially a foreign body or ink that’s injected into the person’s skin.”

If a fresh tattoo too closely follows a COVID vaccine, it may make monitoring side effects more difficult.

“If the site were to become red and swollen, it would be unclear the reason for the reaction and better to avoid it in that situation,” Dr. Sunitha Posina, a board-certified physician in internal medicine in New York, said.

Tattoos can also occasionally cause people to develop fatigue or a low-grade fever within 48 hours. “A local infection after tattoo may need antibiotic therapy, and you don’t want to blow it off and blame the vaccine,” Chang said.

“The skin is your first barrier against pathogens, and it’s designed to trigger immune responses,” Dr. Deborah Fuller, a University of Washington School of Medicine microbiologist, told the Huffington Post. “Body modification like tattooing or piercing can stimulate an immune response that you might not want to experience in combination with an immune response from the vaccine.”

Dr. Abisola Olulade, a San Diego-based board-certified family medicine physician, recommends waiting at least a few days between your vaccination and tattoo to rule out any possible side effects. Even if you don’t get tattooed on your arm, she says some people may find it challenging to juggle “two different areas of the body that are painful at the same time.”

Regardless, it’s advised people continue masking up for tattoo appointments. It’s equally important that your tattoo artist take serious health and safety precautions, including providing adequate ventilation and limiting the number of people in their shop. Should you develop any COVID symptoms before getting your tattoo, it’s also safer to reschedule until you’ve quarantined and tested negative.

It’s also imperative to follow your artist’s guidelines on keeping your new tattoo clean to help prevent infection. Keep an eye out for any signs of an allergic reaction, including redness, swelling, and pain.

“If you have redness lasting more than just a few days or drainage or worsened pain, then you should seek urgent medical attention,” Olulade said.

After you get the vaccine, is it safe to …

Sources: Washington Post, Allure, HuffPost

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