Long Covid: Rarely among those who have been vaccinated

Even those who are vaccinated can become infected with Sars-CoV-2 – because even the best vaccine does not protect 100 percent. In vaccinated people, however, the re-infection is usually easy – this became apparent early on in the context of the vaccination campaigns. But what about long covid, i.e. long-lasting symptoms in the aftermath of the infection, from which many only slightly ill suffer?

A British study now provides further positive news for vaccinated people: The vaccinations not only protect very well against infections and severe courses – those who become infected also only bear half the risk of Long Covid as an unvaccinated person.

long covid vaccine

Who will it affect?

Long Covid – also known as Post Covid Syndrome – is still one of the great unknowns of the pandemic. It is not completely clear what causes long-lasting symptoms such as exhaustion, concentration disorders, breathing problems and organ and nerve damage after a Covid 19 disease. It is also still uncertain who will it affect and whether it will disappear completely again.

A total of 1.24 million British people took part in the current study on this subject. Those who were infected reported symptoms every day over a period of 28 days using a smartphone app.

Should vaccinated people worry about Long Covid?

Covid-19 is most known for causing acute illness, from a cough and fever to hospitalization and death. But in some cases, it seems to cause longer-term complications, including breathing difficulties, fatigue, and brain fog, though the effects vary from person to person. While Covid-19 typically resolves in the span of weeks, Long Covid can last months after an infection.

These long-term complications aren’t unique to the coronavirus; other viruses, including seasonal flu, cause long-term symptoms too, sometimes similar ones. But as more people have been infected by the coronavirus, and more have subsequently developed Long Covid, the long-term problems have received more attention.

So even in the context of a post-vaccine world, does Long Covid make the coronavirus too dangerous to live with? Can the world really treat Covid-19 like a flu-level illness if it’s causing debilitating long-term problems for many?

The truth is there’s still a lot to learn about Long Covid, we simply don’t know. We don’t know what causes it, or why some people seem to develop Long Covid symptoms while others don’t. We don’t know with much precision how often Long Covid occurs. We don’t know how variants of the virus, including Delta, have altered the risk. We don’t even know if all the cases believed to be Long Covid are actually caused by the coronavirus. Nor do we know much about breakthrough cases among vaccinated people leading to Long Covid, though we know there have been some cases. But the vaccines very likely help to prevent Long Covid by reducing both the likelihood of infection and severity of illness, both of which are associated with long-term complications. The uncertainty makes it difficult to make any kind of sweeping declarations about Long Covid. Based on conversations with experts, the best we can say goes something like this: Long Covid is relatively rare, especially among vaccinated people. And it will likely become rarer over time, especially as more people get vaccinated and the population in general develops stronger immune defences against the coronavirus.

The hope is that over time as more variants emerge, as we keep getting more booster vaccinations, also as our body becomes more accustomed to producing antibodies to this virus type, we’re going to see cases of Long Covid reducing.

People with previous illnesses develop Long Covid more often

The study also reveals which people were more often affected by a breakthrough infection (infection despite a complete vaccination). This mainly included seniors who also suffered from kidney, heart or lung disease.

But people who lived in socially disadvantaged environments were also more frequently affected by vaccination breakthroughs.

Normal weight protects – a little

A BMI of less than 30, on the other hand, seems to protect a little against breakthrough infections: People participating in the study who were not obese, the risk of a new infection was 16 percent lower than for obese people.

This study also confirmed that the likelihood of having to go to hospital in the event of a breakthrough infection is significantly lower for those who have been vaccinated than for those who have not been vaccinated.

The data provided by the study are particularly valuable due to the large number of participants. However, as the study authors emphasise, it is a purely observational study, the data of which is based solely on the voluntary information provided by the participants – and was not backed up by medical findings, for example.

They could also be somewhat distorted by the fact that significantly more women than men participated in the study and comparatively few people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds were represented.

What can be done to help people with Long Covid?

Right now, the options are fairly limited, because the disorder is so little understood. Some countries are opening clinics for people with Long Covid. In Germany, a company called MEDIAN has begun accepting people with Long Covid at some of its private rehabilitation clinics. In England, the National Health Service has provided £10 million for a network of 69 clinics: these have started to assess and help people with the condition. While in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) a free online Covid rehabilitation programme was launched to help patients recover and manage long-term effects.

The UAE also witnessed that long-term sufferers of Covid-19 are increasingly turning to holistic and natural remedies to ease chronic symptoms of fatigue. Alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle, alternative therapies such as mediation and mental exercises are proving to speed-up recovery. As mandated by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Mental Health and Alternative Medicine Treatments such as Ayurveda and Homoeopathy are going to be covered from November 2021 under the basic health insurance benefits in Dubai.