Each week, OMRF Vice President of Research Dr. Rod McEver opens “Adam’s Journal” to answer a medical question from Adam Cohen, OMRF’s senior vice president & general counsel.
Breakthrough infections of Covid-19 are now commonplace. Is the risk of long Covid any different among those who are fully vaccinated against the virus? Does having a mild case of Covid-19 make someone less likely to experience long-term symptoms?
Dr. McEver Prescribes
Long Covid, also technically known as PASC, is an umbrella term that covers various coronavirus symptoms that persist for weeks, months or even years after initial infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. As with just about every aspect of Covid-19, we’re still learning, so scientists don’t yet know whether vaccination reduces the chance of long Covid.
Of course, we do know the best way to avoid long Covid is to avoid Covid altogether. That means getting vaccinated, boosted and masking in situations that could be high risk.
However, with a stream of highly contagious variants and waning immunity, many vaccinated people are still getting sick. In a study of 34,000 fully vaccinated but unboosted people who experienced breakthrough Covid-19 infections, vaccination appeared to reduce the likelihood of long Covid by just 15%.
It’s important to note that this study pre-dated the recent omicron variants. It also didn’t look at those who’d received boosters.
Studies have shown that patients hospitalized with severe Covid-19 are at the highest risk for long-lasting effects. In addition to high viral load, research also suggests that three other factors increase the risk of long Covid: (1) Type 2 diabetes; (2) the presence of certain proteins known as autoantibodies in the blood; and (3) the reactivation of Epstein-Barr virus, a common virus that typically lies dormant in most of our bodies.
Dr. Judith James of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, working with colleagues at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, is participating in a nationwide study of long Covid. They’ll study research volunteers for up to four years to better understand the causes of long Covid and how best to treat it.
With the government estimating that as many as 23 million Americans have the condition and the situation continuing to evolve, it’s certain more study is needed.
Do you have a health query for Dr. McEver? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be answered in a future column!