Omicron: GP explains ‘overwhelming’ science behind vaccines
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The pandemic appears to be having a second wind, with cases soaring across the UK. Meanwhile, long Covid is still bedevilling broad swathes of the population. Recent survey data suggested an estimated 1.3 million people living in private households in the UK (2.1 percent of the population) were experiencing self-reported long Covid symptoms as of 2 January 2022.
There is not a universal definition of long Covid but it has come to describe symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has gone.
Evidence suggests getting vaccinated can lower your chances of developing long Covid in the first place but treating it via this means does not look so promising if a new study into the matter is anything to go by.
The study, published in the journal Springer Link, used data from a prospective cohort to assess differences in long Covid among vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.
A prospective study is a research study that follows over time groups of individuals who are alike in many ways but differ by a certain characteristic.
Researchers used data from a cohort of COVID-19 patients enrolled into a prospective registry established at a tertiary care health system in New York City.
Participants underwent a baseline evaluation before COVID-19 vaccines were available and were followed six months later.
The researchers compared a six-month change for several long Covid–related symptoms and measures: loss of smell, respiratory symptoms, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; COVID-19-related and other trauma), and quality-of-life domains among participants who received and did not receive COVID-19 vaccination.
The study included 453 COVID-19 patients with long Covid, of which 324 (72 percent) were vaccinated between the baseline and six-month visit.
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After conducting their analysis, the researchers did not find significant differences in the baseline to six-month change in loss of smell, respiratory symptoms, depression, anxiety, PTSD, or quality of life among vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.
The researchers concluded: “Our findings suggest that COVID vaccination is not associated with improvement in PASC [long Covid].”
They added: “Additional studies are needed to better understand the mechanisms underlying PASC and to develop effective treatments.”
The good news
Evidence elsewhere has found vaccination mitigates the impact. There is also good evidence getting vaccinated can help ward off long Covid in the first place.
A review by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows that people who have had one or more doses of a coronavirus vaccine are less likely to develop long Covid than those who remain unvaccinated.
The UKHSA undertook a rapid evidence review looking at the effects of vaccination against long COVID or post-Covid symptoms.
The review included 15 UK and international studies that were undertaken up until January 2022.
Eight of the studies in the review looked at the effect of vaccinations administered before infection.
Most of these studies suggest that vaccinated people (one or two doses) were less likely to develop symptoms of long Covid following infection compared with unvaccinated people – in the short term and long term (four weeks up until six months after infection).
Te data from some of the studies included in the review suggests that:
- People with COVID-19 who received two doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Janssen vaccine, were about half as likely as people who received one dose or were unvaccinated to develop long Covid symptoms lasting more than 28 days
- Vaccine effectiveness against most post-Covid symptoms in adults was highest in people aged 60 years and over, and lowest for younger participants (19 to 35 years).
The remaining studies looked at the effects of vaccination among people who already had long Covid symptoms.
Four studies specifically compared long Covid symptoms before and after vaccination. Three of these studies suggested that more people with COVID-19 reported an improvement than a worsening in symptoms after vaccination, either immediately or over several weeks.
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