An article by Gavi in September 2022 explored the few studies that investigate the links between COVID-19 vaccination and Long Covid. WHO’s Dr Janet Diaz described the many possible symptoms of “post COVID-19 condition” or Long Covid, identifying more than 200 reported symptoms. The three most common are shortness of breath, “cognitive dysfunction, which people call brain fog”, and fatigue.
How many people suffer?
Gavi suggested in 2021 that it is “difficult to determine” how many people who are infected with COVID end up with “persistent symptoms”. As data continue to emerge, and the duration of initial cases increases, we are still learning about this condition. At the time, Gavi compared the WHO figure of 10% to a UK study of 30%. This discrepancy is worsened by the fact that many do not recognise the condition.
Several studies so far
The recent post by Gavi suggested that in 2021 a UK study “showed that vaccination significantly reduced the chances of getting Long COVID”. However, this is undermined by a later study of US veterans, with up to 13 million participants. This “indicated that the risk of developing Long COVID was 15% less than for those who had not been vaccinated”.
More recently, a UK study examined 3,333 vaccinated participants against 3,090 unvaccinated participants. The survey required participants to assess whether they were still experiencing symptoms 4 or more weeks after infection that “could not be attributed to anything else”.
The researchers found that two doses of the vaccine, received at least two weeks before SARS-CoV-2 infection “almost halved” the chances of developing Long Covid symptoms at least 12 weeks later. This decrease was 41%. However, the researchers acknowledged that the self-reporting nature of the study will have allowed participants to misclassify or misidentify symptoms. Alternatively, some may have not wanted to self-report “because of the stigma sometimes associated with post-viral conditions”. Furthermore, the study used data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), obtained before the Omicron variant became dominant, and before many were boosted.
Where does this leave us?
In the end, it’s hard to establish a clear understanding of such a nebulous and under-analysed condition. Many health experts are advocating for further research and, equally importantly, more compassion to surround the discourse. As momentum towards the “finish line” of the pandemic increases, it will be crucial that those who continue to suffer its effects are not left behind.
To participate in further discussion about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination get your tickets to the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022.