As we enter the third year of the pandemic, long COVID has become an increasingly important concern.
Long COVID is characterised by COVID-19 symptoms that last longer than three months accompanied by bone-deep exhaustion, cognitive dysfunction & post-exertional malaise.
However, an important question is now being asked: can COVID vaccinations reduce the chances of developing long-term symptoms.
What does the research conducted so far say?
In January this year, an Israeli article published on MedRvix suggested that those who had two vaccine doses reported fewer symptoms linked with long COVID when compared with their unvaccinated counterparts. The research has not yet been peer-reviewed.
An article by the New York Times reported another analysis from the United Kingdom: “The United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency conducted an analysis of eight studies that had been published on the topic before mid-January. It reported that six of the studies found that vaccinated people who became infected with the coronavirus were less likely than unvaccinated patients to develop symptoms of long Covid. The remaining two studies found that vaccination did not appear to conclusively reduce the chances of developing long Covid.”
Why are there apparently conflicting results from the Agency’s analysis of the studies?
One reason is that the studies themselves are conducted differently. The definition of long COVID isn’t consistent across the board. Hence, measuring and tracking symptoms of patients hasn’t been consistent either.
For example, some studies recorded symptoms that lingered at least 28 days after infection, while others measured symptoms people were experiencing six months later. Studies relying on patient surveys may yield very different results than those based on electronic medical records. And some studies did not have very diverse populations. Patients in the veterans’ study, for example, were mostly older, white and male.
Is there any reason to believe that vaccines might protect against long COVID?
It has been posited that the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing long Covid-19 systems may ultimately depend upon the underlying cause of long Covid, which is also currently unclear.
Researchers believe different symptoms might have different underlying causes in different patients. Some believe that the condition may be related to remnants of the virus or its genetic material lingering after the initial infection subsides. Another theory is that the continuing problems are related to inflammation or blood circulation problems spurred by an overactive immune response that is unable to shut down.
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale, was quoted in The New York Times as follows: “Vaccines may be able to provide lasting relief in people whose symptoms are caused by vestiges of the virus if the antibodies generated by the vaccines eliminate those remnants.”
Here are some posts from Professor Iwasaki that further elaborate her views:
The study referred to Dr. Iwasaki’s tweets can be found here.
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