Does vaccination protect against prolonged Covid?

Does vaccination protect against prolonged Covid?

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D30. J60. J90. Two years ago, at the beginning of the pandemic, the first testimonies of people infected with the coronavirus who continued to feel symptoms of the disease several weeks after contracting the coronavirus multiplied on social networks. Often young patients, who initially developed a mild to moderate form of the virus and whose persistent illness will soon bear a name: the long Covid. Or when the disease seems to resist in the body even though it no longer harbors the virus.

Although anti-Covid vaccines have a moderate capacity to prevent transmission of the virus, particularly against the Omicron variant, which is associated with immune escape, we know that they protect against severe forms of the disease. And that’s not all: according to several recently published scientific studies, vaccination would reduce the risk of developing prolonged Covid. And after an infection, it could ease lingering symptoms.

A protective effect is observed

In the United Kingdom, the Health Security Agency has analyzed the results of eight published studies on the subject. According to six of them, people vaccinated against covid-19 who subsequently become infected with the virus are less likely than unvaccinated people to develop prolonged covid. But in proportions that vary from one to another. An American observational study conducted on electronic patient records of the US Veterans Health Administration thus concludes that the risk of presenting symptoms six months after infection is reduced by 13% in vaccinated Covid patients, compared to unvaccinated Covid patients.

A British study, carried out on a sample of approximately 1.2 million people, reports a 50% reduction in the risk of persistent symptoms in vaccinated patients. Another, which has not been validated by its peers, concludes with a reduced risk of 41%. “These disparate results are not surprising, in the sense that not all scientists take the same criteria and symptoms to define how long Covid is,” he explains to 20 minutes Dr. Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist and Covid-19 crisis doctor at the Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches.

Protection that is not as strong depending on age

“In those under 40 years of age, the age group most affected by the long covid, there is a protective trend of the vaccine, which however is not easy to assess for this category of patients who most often form few or no symptoms of the illness. What is also interesting is that studies show that a two-dose vaccine reduces the risk of long Covid and sequelae by 40% in people over 60 years of age, although this is an age group that is more likely to develop severe forms. of the disease, requiring hospitalization. and that leave sequels, which in my opinion makes it another form of long Covid, details the infectologist. We thus see that vaccination provides protection – interesting but not total – against the sequelae and persistent effects of the virus”.

A beneficial effect on long forms already declared

According to the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), 20% of Covid patients in France still feel symptoms five weeks after their contamination. And one in ten would suffer a long Covid three months after infection. “I have patients who were infected early in the pandemic and still describe persistent symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, mental confusion, and other pain,” says Dr. Davido.

Several factors would explain this phenomenon. “High viremia, that is, the presence of virus in the blood, is associated with a higher risk of recurrence and long duration of Covid, as well as the presence of autoantibodies that will be directed against the organism, but few protective antibodies despite of the infection, continues the infectologist. However, vaccination will stimulate the production of antibodies and thus allow the passage of the virus to be neutralized in the blood, by reactivating the latent virus in the body. It comes here to support the immunological memory of the already infected organism and thus allows the persistent symptoms to be attenuated or even terminated.”

act as soon as possible

But in this case, it is better not to stay. Another pre-published US study, conducted by the Covid Patient Recovery Alliance on the records of approximately 240,000 patients infected with the coronavirus in May 2021, finds that people who received their first dose of the vaccine after contracting the coronavirus were less likely to develop a long Covid than the unvaccinated and, logically, the sooner they receive their injection after infection, the lower the risk that the symptoms will persist. “It’s best not to wait too long to establish care,” confirms Dr. Davido. I have a patient who maintains sequelae of her infection and who has not been vaccinated. However, her vaccination could allow him to eliminate the virus in her organs, since she has few antibodies. Vaccination must remain at the center of our anti-Covid strategy, it is a precious tool but, like medicines, it is not 100% effective: there are people for whom it works and others it does not. What is certain is that the later the long Covid treatment, the more difficult it will be to combat the persistent effects.

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