So-called “long-term COVID” remains an underacknowledged aspect of the coronavirus pandemic. Aside from the still-mounting death toll, the virus has the potential to undermine quality of life well after initial onset of infection. As we reported last year, some patients experience chronic fatigue-like symptoms many months post-infection.
It is still not clear how common this is. A 2020 study in London found 10 percent of people had ongoing symptoms, and this finding was echoed by the World Health Organization earlier this year. ABC reported it may be up to a third of infected people. With total confirmed cases now over 174 million worldwide, that’s a huge number of people.
Vaccine May Offer Hope for Long-Term COVID-19 Sufferers
But now the vaccine roll-out is proving to be a source of hope in a surprising way. According to a report in New Scientist, an informal patient-run survey found that 32% of long-term COVID patients felt better or completely recovered by two weeks after being vaccinated.
These were patients still feeling the effects of coronavirus infection eight months after they were first infected. Around 60% were fatigued, 50% experienced breathlessness and 38% struggled with insomnia.
One pre-print research paper was more specific. It found that 23% of long-term COVID patients’ symptoms resolved after vaccination. However, the authors caution about the role of self-reporting here, given that the condition is characterised by ebbs and flows in the intensity of symptoms.
The corollary of all this is that 68-77% of patients with long-term symptoms did not improve post-vaccination. Many of these individuals were young, health and active before infection; there appears to be no strong correlation between intensity of initial symptoms following infection and likelihood of suffering chronic effects.
This should serve as a warning to those who would rush to roll back pandemic-related restrictions on personal freedoms. On the other hand, the beneficial effects of the vaccine are cause for optimism that long-term symptoms won’t be felt significantly across the population if the virus persists after mass vaccination campaigns.
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