Coronavirus vaccinations might help COVID-19 patients suffering from long-term symptoms, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
Similar, tentative findings were reported by an Israeli military-run task force earlier this week.
After getting vaccinated, several people suffering from “Long COVID” are reporting alleviated symptoms on social media, according to The Washington Post.
Long COVID, a phenomenon in which those infected with the virus continue to experience lingering symptoms for months after contagion, is still relatively mysterious, with no consensus on the condition among clinicians and researchers.
Steven Deeks, an infectious disease physician at the University of California at San Francisco, told The Washington Post: “The only thing that we can safely assume is that an unknown proportion of people who acquire SARS-CoV-2 have long-term symptoms.”
“We know the questions. We have no answers. Hard stop.”
It is unclear how exactly vaccinations impact long-term coronavirus patients.
There has only been one study on the subject, and with a very small scope, testing 44 vaccinated patients against 22 unvaccinated ones. The research, conducted by the University of Bristol, concluded that people suffering from Long COVID who have been vaccinated are more likely to see their symptoms improve or stay the same, compared to patients who have not been immunized.
The paper has not yet been submitted for peer review and was testing for safety, not health improvements, though scientists from Bristol say results offer “tentative hope.” Many sufferers of Long COVID have been hesitant to get vaccinated, fearing it might further harm their immune systems.
In fact, a small overall improvement in Long Covid symptoms, with a decrease in worsening symptoms (5.6% vaccinated vs 14.2% unvaccinated) and increase in symptom resolution (23.2% vaccinated vs 15.4% unvaccinated)(p=0.035) was reported. This is encouraging ???????? (3/) pic.twitter.com/QbJ02oMfCM
— Prof. Akiko Iwasaki (@VirusesImmunity) March 14, 2021
Diana Berrent, founder of Survivor Corps, an online organization for COVID-19 survivors, informally surveyed the site’s Long COVID patients who were vaccinated, reporting “that 216 people said they felt no different after vaccination, 171 said their conditions improved and 63 reported that they felt worse.”
Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, put forward several theories on how vaccines might help Long COVID patients on the blog Elemental. Since the causes of Long COVID are unknown, Iwasaki proposed three hypotheses.
She suggested that vaccine-induced T cells (immune cells that attack and kill infected cells) may eradicate a viral reservoir; that heightened immunity from the vaccine might eliminate lingering fragments of the virus; or that “the vaccine might divert autoimmune cells,” if Long COVID symptoms were caused by an autoimmune response.
Iwasaki believes that those suffering from Long COVID have “varying degrees of all three mechanisms taking place.”
“By understanding which mechanism(s) are causing Long Covid within each person, suitable treatment can be given,” she wrote.
Israel’s military-run taskforce on the pandemic said Sunday there were preliminary indications that the coronavirus vaccine can help relieve lingering symptoms among “long-haul” COVID patients.
“Preliminary reports indicate that those who suffer from persistent symptoms even after their recovery are reporting a significant improvement in their condition after receiving a vaccine dose,” a report by the taskforce said.
Israel has recommended that those who formerly had COVID-19 receive a single vaccine dose.
The National Institutes of Health, the US Health Department’s medical research agency, launched a new initiative to study Long COVID in February. The NIH has reported that “symptoms can include fatigue, shortness of breath, “brain fog,” sleep disorders, fevers, gastrointestinal symptoms, anxiety, and depression, can persist for months and range from mild to incapacitating.”
After surveying thousands of Long COVID patients from 56 countries, the NIH reported that “the majority—88 percent—said they coped with some form of cognitive dysfunction or memory loss that to varying degrees affected their everyday lives.”
US Congress has provided $1.15 billion for the NIH to research the prolonged health consequences of COVID-19 over the next four years.