Vaccines No Match for Long Covid


Whatever your standpoint on whether the pandemic is over, or what “living with the virus” should mean, it is clear some manifestation of Covid-19 will be with us for some time to come. Not least for the estimated 1.7 million people in the UK living with long Covid, reports The Guardian.

Long Covid

And lest any who made a full and rapid recovery from infection still wonder whether long Covid might be a self-reported creation of the indolent, this is a now a large, well-documented, convergent cluster of clear physiological symptoms, and it is common to every part of the globe affected by Covid-19.

Many sufferers of my acquaintance were keen cyclists, runners, skiers and dancers, but are now disabled and deprived of their former passions, while some are unable to resume their former professions. Doctors and scientists the world over now consider this a recognised part of the Sars-CoV-2 symptom profile.

UK infection wave

Many of the most severe and enduring “long-haulers” derive from the first UK infection wave just before the initial lockdown in March 2020. Even though it was clear from the outset that the risk of long Covid was not correlated simply with the severity of infection, there was every reason to hope that with the large-scale rollout of effective vaccines, and more recent waves of infection dominated by a somewhat less severe variant, there would be few additions to the sufferers joining long Covid support groups.

We thought that the number of long Covid cases developing might be lower when most cases were breakthrough cases in the vaccinated, or infections in vaccinated or partially vaccinated children. Sadly, far from any subsidence in new long Covid cases, the big, ongoing caseloads of the Delta, Omicron and BA.2 waves have brought a large cohort of new sufferers.

Chances of Long Covid in vaccinated

From published data, the chances of long Covid in those who are vaccinated but suffer breakthrough infections may be halved, but when you apply this to the huge waves we’ve experienced – 3.5 million people infected at a given time – each 3.5 million cases becomes another 175,000 people with long Covid.

These waves have disproportionately affected primary and secondary schools, and many of the new sufferers are children. Sammie Mcfarland at reports a constant stream of new members across its support services, many developing long Covid after two, three or four bouts of reinfection, having escaped it first time round.

Symptom spectrum shift

Also, the symptom spectrum may be shifting from the earlier waves, with more reports of sight, hearing and motor-function deficits, alongside gastrointestinal pain, joint pain, rashes, swelling and fatigue. This is a tangible price being paid for turning a blind eye to the high incidence of cases in schools over recent months.

With such large numbers having been infected at any given time in recent months, many suffering repeat infections at three- or four-week intervals, the potential legacy of chronic, disabling illness is an aspect making this utterly different from most other winter respiratory pathogens – such as flu or coldsNobody is certain whether long Covid from the current period will be quite the same as the early waves, but this is an experiment that none of us would wish to do on our children.

It has been consistently difficult to assess the trajectory of people’s recovery from persistent symptoms, which has entailed assessing those whose symptoms lasted three months but not six, compared with the smaller subset without improvement at 18-24 months. A team at the University of Toronto followed up patients with persistent symptoms after infection during the 2003 Sars outbreak. Many of these showed little recovery several years later. If this trend were extrapolated to our current Omicron wave, the effects on education, the workforce and healthcare provision would be huge.

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Source: The Guardian


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