COVID-19 Vaccination and the Likelihood of Self-reported Long COVID

Pavankumar Kamat

October 27, 2021

A new report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using data from the UK Coronavirus Infection Survey (CIS) highlights the link between COVID-19 vaccination and self-reported long COVID in individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection prior to vaccination.

Researchers analysed responses from 28,356 study participants aged 18-69 years in the UK who had responded to the CIS question on long COVID over a follow-up period of ~7 months (from 3 February 2021 to 5 September 2021). The participants had received at least one dose of an adenovirus vector (Oxford/AstraZeneca) or mRNA (Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna) COVID-19 vaccine before or during the follow-up period and had tested positive for COVID-19 before vaccination. Long COVID was defined as persistent symptoms for at least 12 weeks following SARS-CoV-2 infection.

A single dose of COVID-19 vaccine was associated with an initial 12.8% (95% CI, 18.6%-6.6%) reduction in the likelihood of self-reported long COVID among individuals who had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection before vaccination. However, it is not clearly understood whether the initial improvement in self-reported long COVID symptoms following the first dose was sustained until the administration of the second dose.

The second dose of COVID-19 vaccine was associated with an initial 8.8% (95% CI, 14.1%-3.1%) reduction in the likelihood of self-reported long COVID, and the improvement is likely to have sustained.

No significant differences were seen in post-vaccination trends of self-reported long COVID between individuals who received adenovirus vector and mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Furthermore, there were no significant differences in trends of self-reported long COVID based on socio-demographic characteristics or health status.

Daniel Ayoubkhani from the ONS, said: "Long COVID is a new phenomenon that we’re continually trying to understand more about. Today’s study is the largest internationally to look at long COVID after vaccination."

The research had some key limitations. The observational nature of the research failed to establish causality between COVID-19 vaccination the likelihood of self-reported long COVID. Additionally, long-term associations could not be determined due to limited follow-up after the second dose.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Fergus Hamilton, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bristol, said: "This research is very reassuring to people who are suffering with prolonged symptoms after COVID-19.  Firstly, as shown in other cohorts, there is an improvement over time with symptoms. Secondly, as shown in previous research, there does appear to be a observed benefit of vaccination in reducing symptom burden in patients who have been previously infected."

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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