COVID vaccines may prevent long COVID conditions

A new peer-reviewed paper examined the incidence of new-onset hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease in people who received COVID vaccines compared to unvaccinated individuals with breakthrough infections. The study showed much lower risks in the COVID-19 vaccines group compared to unvaccinated individuals.

I know that, for most of the world, we’re close to reaching the point that we probably cannot convince many more people to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines. But in case there are some people who are still on the fence about the vaccine, I hope this is convincing evidence to consider the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccines
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What is long COVID-19?

Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (also called long-haul COVID or simply, long-COVID) are a set of conditions, from neuropsychiatric to digestive to pulmonary to cardiovascular to diabetes, that persists long after the SARS-CoV-2 infection has passed. There is no test to diagnose long-COVID conditions, and some individuals may have a wide variety of symptoms that could result from prior health conditions but are exacerbated by COVID. This can make it difficult for healthcare providers to recognize post-COVID conditions. 

Worse yet, since the symptoms are so difficult to explain, they are often very difficult to manage. There is no known “cure” for long-COVID-19, so healthcare professionals have to focus on treating the symptoms, not a favorite technique of most science-based physicians.

Anti-vaxxers love to point out that the vast majority of people survive a COVID-19 infection (while ignoring the large number, over 1 million in the USA alone, that die). However, they fail to take into account long-COVID which may be a more important consideration than the initial COVID-19 infection itself.

And once again, preventing or reducing the severity of COVID-19, by getting one of the vaccines, is apparently the best choice.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Research on long-COVID after receiving vaccines

I have often wondered if long-COVID-19 symptoms would be less severe after receiving the vaccines, but there was no evidence available. Until now.

In a paper published in the Open Forum Infectious Diseases journal, Grace A McComsey and colleagues examined the medical records of 1,578,719 patients with confirmed COVID, with 25,225 of those (1.6%) having documented COVID vaccination (and a breakthrough infection). That is, 98.4% of those who had confirmed COVID-19 were unvaccinated, once again showing the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. But I digress.

The results of their analysis were:

  • Compared to the unvaccinated group, the relative risk for hypertension in the vaccinated group was 0.33 (or 67% reduction in risk) after 90 days.
  • 0.28 for diabetes (or 72% reduction in risk) after 90 days.
  • 0.35 for heart disease (or 65% reduction in risk) after 90 days.
  • 0.54 for new respiratory symptoms (or 46% reduction) after 90 days.
  • 0.39 for headaches (or 61% reduction) after 90 days.
  • 0.34 for body ache (or 66% reduction) after 90 days.
  • 0.48 for fatigue (or 52% reduction) after 90 days.
  • 0.44 for diarrhea or constipation (or 56% reduction) after 90 days.
  • The incidence (per 1000) in the vaccinated group was 7.19 versus 20.26 in the unvaccinated group for heart disease.
  • 6.45 versus 25.53 for mental disorders.
  • 6.42 versus 19.59 for hypertension.
  • 2.69 versus 9.69 for diabetes.

In this massive list of data, it is clear that there is a significant reduction in risk for a large number of long-COVID sequelae in the vaccinated group compared to the unvaccinated group.

But there’s one big piece of data — the risk of death 90 days later was 0.21, or a reduction of 79%, in the vaccinated compared to the unvaccinated group. You may want to dismiss COVID-19 as an insignificant disease (it’s not), but the evidence is clear — getting vaccinated reduces the risk of long-COVID death.

The researchers wrote:

We hypothesize that [vaccination’s] effect on reducing the inflammatory responses during the acute phase does also explain the lower rates of all [post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2] outcomes observed in our study among the vaccinated group.

This study did have some limitations:

  • Only electronic medical records were used which may have led to some type of selection bias.
  • The true prevalence of post-COVID-19 symptoms is unknown, as many asymptomatic patients were not tested for the virus.
  • Immunization status may be a source of bias, since those individuals may be more likely to seek or receive medical attention. If this source of bias exists, it actually might make the risks of not vaccinating much higher.
word conclusion on light pink background
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Summary

I think this study provides overwhelming evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines provide both short-term (preventing COVID-19 infection) and long-term (reducing the risk of long-COVID-19 symptoms) benefits to individuals. I have become more concerned personally about long-COVID than I was about the acute symptoms of COVID-19 (although the mortality rate has always been frightening).

Now I know my desire to be vaccinated and boosted has made my immune system more powerful in preventing COVID-19, and if I do get a breakthrough infection, I’m better protected against long-COVID-19.

Citations


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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!