The Impact of COVID Vaccination on Symptoms of Long COVID: An International Survey of People with Lived Experience of Long COVID
Strain, W. D.
Van der Togt, V.
Rights© 2022 The Authors
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Long COVID is a multi-system syndrome following SARS-CoV-2 infection with persistent symptoms of at least 4 weeks, and frequently for several months. It has been suggested that there may be an autoimmune component. There has been an understandable caution amongst some people experiencing long COVID that, by boosting their immune response, a COVID vaccine may exacerbate their symptoms. We aimed to survey people living with long COVID, evaluating the impact of their first COVID vaccination on their symptoms. METHODS: Patients with long COVID were invited to complete a web-based questionnaire through postings on social media and direct mailing from support groups. Basic demographics, range and severity of long COVID symptoms, before and after their vaccine, were surveyed. RESULTS: 900 people participated in the questionnaire, of whom 45 had pre-existing myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) but no evidence of COVID infection, and a further 43 did not complete the survey in full. The demographics and symptomology of the remaining 812 people were similar to those recorded by the UK Office of National Statistics. Following vaccination, 57.9% of participants reported improvements in symptoms, 17.9% reported deterioration and the remainder no change. There was considerable individual variation in responses. Larger improvements in symptom severity scores were seen in those receiving the mRNA vaccines compared to adenoviral vector vaccines. CONCLUSIONS: Our survey suggests COVID-19 vaccination may improve long COVID patients, on average. The observational nature of the survey limits drawing direct causal inference, but requires validation with a randomised controlled trial.