Vaccinated about 50% less likely to develop long COVID-19 symptoms
While fully vaccinated individuals can still get infected with the coronavirus, a new study suggests the breakthrough illnesses are much less likely to lead to long COVID-19.
The study — conducted among 1.2 million British adults — was published in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases and found that people who are vaccinated are about 50% less likely to develop long COVID-19 systems than those who are unvaccinated.
“This is really, I think, the first study showing that long COVID is reduced by double vaccination, and it’s reduced significantly,” Dr. Claire Steves, a geriatrician at King’s College London and the study’s lead author told The New York Times.
Most people who contract COVID-19 and survive the sometimes-deadly virus recover within a few weeks of first showing symptoms. Others, however, go through a debilitating and largely unexplained period of prolonged illness that has come to be known as long COVID-19.
Symptoms of long COVID-19 can include chronic shortness of breath, brain fog, fatigue, and heart palpitations, among other conditions.
“We don’t have a treatment yet for long COVID,” Steves told The New York Times. “(Getting vaccinated) is a prevention strategy that everybody can engage in.”
The study comes at an important time as more people are experiencing breakthrough COVID-19 infections on account of the newer, more contagious Delta variant of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Volunteers in the study included those who received at least one shot of the Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines between Dec. 8 and July 4, along with a control group of unvaccinated people.
The study participants had to log their symptoms, test results, and vaccination records on a mobile app. Among the nearly 1 million people who were vaccinated in the study, 0.2% reported that they experienced a breakthrough infection, according to researchers.
The study also found that vaccinated participants who experienced breakthrough infections were around twice as likely to be asymptomatic, and 73% less likely to require hospitalization than their unvaccinated and infected counterparts.
Steves told the New York Times she hopes the study will inspire more young people to get vaccinated in order to avoid having their lives disrupted by long COVID-19 symptoms.
“Being out of action for six months has a major impact on people’s lives,” Steves said. “So, if we can show that their personal risk of long COVID is reduced by getting their vaccinations, that may be something that may help them make a decision to go ahead and get a vaccine.”