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May 20, 2022
Unvaccinated More Likely To Get Long Covid—And Suffer Symptoms For Longer—Studies Find

Unvaccinated More Likely To Get Long Covid—And Suffer Symptoms For Longer—Studies Find

People who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 are less likely to suffer from long Covid if they catch the virus than people who haven’t, according to a new review of studies by the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), underscoring the wide-ranging benefits of vaccination beyond protecting against infection. 

Those vaccinated against Covid-19 had lower chance of getting long Covid, studies found.

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Key Facts

People who received one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine or two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccines were around half as likely to develop symptoms of long Covid lasting more than 28 days than those who received one dose or weren’t vaccinated, according to the analysis of 15 studies from around the world by the UKHSA.

The vaccines were most effective at staving off long Covid in people over the age of 60 and lowest for younger study subjects ages 19 to 35, the UKHSA said. 

Some of the studies evaluated suggested that getting vaccinated could even help people already suffering from long Covid, with patients reporting either an immediate improvement to symptoms after getting the shot or an improvement over several weeks.

Several studies of unvaccinated people with long Covid suggested that those who went on to receive the vaccine were less likely to report long Covid symptoms after vaccination than those who remained unvaccinated. 

The studies underline the “potential benefits of receiving a full course of the Covid-19 vaccination,” said Dr. Mary Ramsay, the UKHSA’s immunization lead.

Vaccination is the best way to protect against “serious symptoms when you get infected and may also help to reduce the longer-term impact,” Ramsay said. 

Key Background
The report adds to an already overwhelming amount of evidence that supports getting vaccinated against Covid-19. In addition to sparing many from infection—and therefore the risk of long Covid, serious illness and death—in the first place, many studies show they still protect those who catch the virus against serious illness, hospitalization and death. Age and other health risks appear to be far weaker factors in determining who will suffer the lingering symptoms of long Covid, adding to the strong case for low-risk groups like children and young adults to get vaccinated. 

What We Don’t Know
What causes long Covid. The term long Covid covers a wide range of conditions and issues experienced after infection and “we don’t yet fully understand all the processes involved,” said Professor Deborah Dunn-Walters, Professor of Immunology at University of Surrey and Chair of the British Society for Immunology Covid-19 Taskforce. Dunn-Walters said the immune system is believed to play a role in the development of symptoms in many cases, “likely as a result of an over-reactive and/or slightly misdirected immune response during the acute Covid infection.”

Further Reading
Long Covid now major cause of long-term job absence, say quarter of UK employers (FT)

Here’s What We Know About Long Covid, The Debilitating, Lingering Illness That Could Affect Millions (Forbes)

Full coverage and live updates on the Coronavirus

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