Vaccinated Less Likely To Suffer Long COVID Symptoms Than Unvaccinated, Study Says

Vaccinated people are less likely to develop long COVID than unvaccinated people, said a new review published this week. 

The review of 15 studies by the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA) released Tuesday indicated that compared to unvaccinated people, those who have received one- or two-dose preparations of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna vaccines were half as likely to manifest symptoms of long COVID. 

“These studies add to the potential benefits of receiving a full course of the COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself from serious symptoms when you get infected and may also help to reduce the longer-term impact,” UKHSA head of immunization Dr. Mary Ramsay was quoted as saying by Newsmax.

The health agency said about 2% of the entire U.K. population had reported symptoms of the post-COVID syndrome. The most commonly reported symptoms of the people belonging to this group were fatigue, shortness of breath, and muscle or joint pain. 

The UKHSA also indicated in its rapid evidence review that vaccine effectiveness against long COVID was lowest for the younger participants aged 19 to 35 and highest in adults aged 60 and above. 

What Is Long COVID?

Long COVID is a term that refers to post-COVID conditions some patients experience weeks or months after their bout with a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Experts have also called it other names, such as long-haul COVID, post-acute COVID-19, and chronic COVD.

There is still no hard evidence on what is causing the post-COVID syndrome. However, a breakthrough study published in September found that long haulers developed self-attacking antibodies while battling the disease. 

A similar study published last year discovered elevated levels of cytokine interleukin-6 in long COVID patients, suggesting that their acute infection triggered an inflammatory state, which led to the lingering symptoms. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed the symptoms long COVID sufferers tend to experience on its website. The list included a range of mild to debilitating symptoms. It should be noted that patients do not experience all of them at once. Instead, they have complained about suffering different combinations of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (“brain fog”)
  • Cough
  • Chest or stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (heart palpitations)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Diarrhea
  • Sleep problems
  • Fever
  • Dizziness on standing (lightheadedness)
  • Rash
  • Mood changes
  • Change in smell or taste
  • Changes in menstrual period cycles

Implications Of The Review

The UKHSA’s recent review of COVID-19 studies reinforces what scientific and medical experts have told the public since the early days of the pandemic — it is crucial to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Apart from protecting against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain and its variants, the vaccines can also help mitigate further transmissions and control the prevalence of the virus in many places. 

Out of the 15 studies the agency examined, at least six indicated that more patients reported an improvement in their long COVID symptoms after getting vaccinated. On the other hand, those who remained unvaccinated experienced worsening symptoms. 

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