Living with Chronic Pain

Vaccines May Relieve Symptoms of Long COVID-19


What is long COVID-19?

For approximately 10% to 30% of individuals who had COVID-19, symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, shortness of breath, and gastrointestinal symptoms linger for weeks or months after the initial infection. It does not matter whether the initial symptoms were severe or mild. This condition is known as “long COVID,” and individuals who have these lingering symptoms are known as “COVID long-haulers.” The technical name for the condition is “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).”

Potential symptom relief from vaccination

Anecdotal evidence and a few initial studies find that COVID-19 vaccinations may prevent long-haulers’ symptoms from worsening or reduce or completely relieve those symptoms. Initial estimates suggest that anywhere from 30% to 50% of individuals with long COVID may experience symptom improvement after vaccination.

Theories of why vaccination helps

Scientists have proposed two theories about how a COVID-19 vaccine may reduce symptoms:

  • First, individuals with long COVID may still have the virus in their bodies in a “live reservoir.” The vaccine triggers the immune system and causes it to eliminate the remaining virus, which would relieve symptoms.
  • The second possibility is that the COVID-19 infection causes an autoimmune disease in some individuals. If the immune system is mistakenly attacking healthy cells, the vaccine could direct it back to fighting the virus. However, this immune system “reset” may be temporary, meaning symptoms may return a few weeks after vaccination.

Bottom line

More research is needed to determine the exact reason COVID-19 vaccinations may relieve symptoms. Some long-haulers experience spontaneous recovery, so it is possible that symptom relief may coincidentally occur around the time of vaccination.

Regardless of whether the vaccine improves symptoms, it is important for COVID long-haulers to get vaccinated. At the very least, it helps prevent another COVID-19 infection. At best, it may be the most effective treatment for long COVID-19 currently available.

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