A few weeks ago, a report claimed that doctors treating patients who suffer from Long COVID symptoms have started to observe a good coronavirus vaccine side effect. COVID-19 survivors who have been battling symptoms for weeks and months after defeating the virus have started feeling better after receiving their shots.
Up to 30% of long haulers, of which there are many, have reported feeling better after vaccination, with Long COVID symptoms going away. The beneficial effects of vaccines on COVID-19 survivors who still experience symptoms might be widespread, as more doctors have seen the phenomenon occur. Some are already asking for more research to objectively measure the effectiveness of vaccines as therapy for Long COVID.
COVID-19 symptoms could impact as many as 1 in 10 infected people, The Telegraph reports, citing recent research that long haulers could experience symptoms for up to 12 weeks. A smaller number might deal with symptoms for even longer than that. Considering that more than 120 million cases were registered worldwide, and that’s just the ones confirmed via PCR tests, millions of COVID-19 survivors might still be going experiencing symptoms.
The Telegraph also notes that anecdotal evidence shows 20% to 50% of survivors find their symptoms could ease after vaccination. It’s not all good news, though, and that’s why more research is needed.
One of the problems with these early findings is that the figures might not be accurate. “We are getting people reporting improvements, and it’s quite widespread, about half of the people we are asking,” Dr. David Strain told the paper. “There is a major reporting bias, though – the people who notice something remarkable are the ones shouting about it.” Strain is a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter. He also runs Long COVID clinics and is a member of the NHS taskforce on the condition.
Others have made similar observations, with a Post COVID Syndrome support group coordinator noting that some 20% of the more than 4,000 survivors have reported improvements after the vaccine.
The second problem with these reports is that the effects might not be long-lasting. Many people said the improvements were temporary, lasting only three weeks. Others have reported feeling worse for a short time.
Researchers have two theories that might explain the positive effects of vaccines on Long COVID. One says that some survivors still carry a “reservoir” of virus in their bodies, and antibodies from the vaccine can help them clear it. The second explanation is that the vaccines will give the immune system a boost to “reset” it, similar to what has been observed in other conditions, like post-viral fatigue syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome.
“One of the hypotheses about chronic fatigue syndrome is that it is a failure of the immune system to reset after a viral infection,” University of Edinburgh immunologist Prof. Eleanor Riley told The Telegraph. “And if that’s the case, then giving the immune system a jolt, for example by vaccination, may help to reset. But that is purely speculation.”
Riley also cautioned against drawing any conclusions from reports so far. Studies will be needed to prove that the vaccines impact Long COVID. Still, this is yet another positive development for treating Long COVID.